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Copyright, 1892, by Harper & Brothers. 

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[F course they knew all about war 
— soldiers, flags, music, generals 
on horseback brandishing swords, 
knights in armor escalading walls, 
cannons booming through clouds of 
smoke. They were familiarized with it picto- 
rially and by narrative long before the alpha- 
bet made its appearance in the nursery with 
rudimentary accounts of the world they were 
born into, the simple juvenile world of primary 
sensations and colors. Their great men, and 
great women, too, were all fighters ; the great 
events of their histories, battles ; the great places 
of their geography, where they v/ere fought (and 
generally the more bloody the battle, the more 
glorious the place) ; while their little chronol- 
ogy — the pink-covered one— stepped briskly over 
the centuries solely on the names of kings and 
sanguinary saliencies. Sunday added the sab- 
batical supplement to week - day lessons, sym- 
bolizing religion, concreting sin, incorporating 


evil, for their better comprehension, putting Jeho- 
vah himself in armor, to please their childish fac- 
ulties — the omnipotent Intervener of the Old 
Testament, for whom they waved banners, sang 
hymns, and by the brevet title, " little soldiers of 
the cross," felt committed as by baptism to an 
attitude of expectant hostility. Mademoiselle 
Couper, their governess, eased the cross-stitching 
in their samplers during the evenings, after sup- 
per, with traditions of " le grand Napoleon," in 
whose army her grandfather was a terrible and 
distinguished officer, le Capitaine Cesaire Paul 
Picquet de Montignac ; and although Mademoi- 
selle Couper was most unlovable and exacting at 
times, and very homely, such were their powers of 
sympathetic enthusiasm even then that they often 
went to bed envious of the possessor or so glo- 
rious an ancestor, and dreamed fairy tales of him 
whose gray hair, enshrined in a brooch, reposed 
comfortably under the folds of mademoiselle's fat 
chin — the hair that Napoleon had looked upon ! 

When a war broke out in their own country 
they could hardly credit their good-fortune ; that 
is, Christine and Rdgina, for Lolotte was still a 
baby. A wonderful panorama was suddenly un- 
folded before them. It was their first intimation 
of the identity of the world they lived in with the 
world they learned about, their first perception of 
the existence of an entirely novel sentiment in 
their hearts— patriotism, the amour sacri de la pa- 



trie, over which they had seen mademoiselle shed 
tears as copiously as her grandfather had blood. 
It made them and all their little companions feel 
very proud, this war ; but it gave them a heavy 
sense of responsibility, turning their youtliful pre- 
cocity incontinently away from books, slates, and 
pianos towards the martial considerations that 
befitted the hour. State rights, Federal limits, 
monitors and fortresses, proclamations, Presi- 
dents, recognitions, and declarations, they ac- 
quired them all with facility, taxing, as in other 
lessons, their tongue to repeat the unintelligible 
on trust for future intelligence. As their father 
fired his huge after-dinner bombs, so they shot 
their diminutive ammunition ; as he lighted 
brands in the great conflagration, they lighted 
tapers ; and the two contending Presidents them- 
selves did not get on their knees with more fer- 
vor before their colossal sphinxes than these lit- 
tle girls did before their doll-baby presentment 
of " Country." It was very hard to realize at 
times that histories and story-books and poetry 
would indeed be written about them ; that little 
flags would mark battles all over the map of their 
country — the country Mademoiselle Couper de- 
spised as so hopelessly, warlessly insignificant ; 
that men would do great things and women say 
them, teachers and copy-books reiterate them, 
and children learn them, just as they did of the 
Greeks and Romans, the English and French, 


The great advantage was having God on their 
side, as the children of Israel had ; the next best 
thing was having the finest country, the most 
noble men, and the bravest soldiers. The only- 
fear -was that the enemy would be beaten too 
easily, and the war cease too soon to be glorious ; 
for, characteristic of their sex, they demanded 
nothing less than that their war should be the 
longest, bloodiest, and most glorious of all wars 
ever heard of, in comparison with which even 
" le grand Napoleon " and his Capitaine Picquet 
would be effaced from memory. For this were 
exercised their first attempts at extempore prayer. 
God, the dispenser of inexhaustible supplies of 
munitions of war, became quite a different pow- 
er, a nearer and dearer personality, than " Our 
Father," the giver of simple daily bread, and He 
did not lack reminding of the existence of the 
young Confederacy, nor of the hearsay exigencies 
they gathered from the dinner-table talk. 

Titine was about thirteen, Gina twelve, and Lo- 
lotte barely eight years old, when this, to them, 
happy break in their lives occurred. It was eas- 
ily comprehensible to them that their city should 
be captured, and that to escape that grim ultima- 
tum of Mademoiselle Couper, '■'■ passees au fil de 
repee," they should be bundled up very hurriedly 
one night, carried out of their home, and journey 
in troublesome roundabout ways to the planta- 
tion on Bayou I'Ombre. 


That was all four years ago. School and play 
and city life, dolls and fetes and Santa Claus, had 
become the property of memory. Peace for them 
hovered in that obscurity which had once envel- 
oped war, while '"61," '"62," '"63," "'64,"filledim- 
measurable spaces in their short past. Four times 
had Christine and Regina changed the date in 
their diaries — the last token of remembrance from 
Mademoiselle Couper — altering the numerals 
with naive solemnity, as if under the direction of 
the Almighty himself, closing with conventional 
ceremony the record of the lived -out twelve 
months, opening with appropriate aspirations the 
year to come. The laboriously careful chronicle 
that followed was not, however, of the growth of 
their bodies advancing by inches, nor the expan- 
sion of their minds, nor of the vague forms that 
began to people the shadow-land of their sixteen 
and seventeen year old hearts. Their own bud- 
ding and leafing and growing was as unnoted as 
that of the trees and weeds about them. The 
progress of the war, the growth of their hatred 
of the enemy, the expansion of the amour sacre 
germ — these were the confidences that filled the 
neatly -stitched foolscap volumes. If on com- 
parison one sister was found to have been hap- 
pier in the rendition of the common sentiment, 
the coveted fervor and eloquence were plagia- 
rized or imitated the next day by the other, a gen- 
erous emulation thus keeping the original flame 


not only alight, but burning, while from assimilat- 
ing each other's sentiments the two girls grew 
with identity of purpose into identity of mind, and 
effaced the slight difference of age between them. 

Little Lolotte responded as well as she could 
to the enthusiastic exactions of her sisters. She 
gave her rag dolls patriotic names, obediently 
hated and loved as they required, and learned to 
recite all the war songs procurable, even to the 
teeming quantities of the stirring " Men of the 
South, our foes are up !" But as long as the 
squirrels gambolled on the fences, the blackbirds 
flocked in the fields, and the ditches filled with 
fish ; as long as the seasons imported such con- 
stant variety of attractions — persimmons, dew- 
berries, blackberries, acorns, wild plums, grapes, 
and muscadines ; as long as the cows had calves, 
the dogs puppies, the hogs pigs, and the quarters 
new babies to be named ; as long as the exas- 
perating negro children needed daily subjuga- 
tion, regulation, and discipline — the day's meas- 
ure was too well filled and the night's slumber 
too short to admit of her carrying on a very vig- 
orous warfare for a country so far away from 
Bayou I'Ombre — a country whose grievances she 
could not understand. 

But— there were no soldiers, flags, music, pa- 
rades, battles, or sieges. This war was altogether 
distinct from the wars contained in books or in 
Mademoiselle Couper's memory. There was an 


absence of the simplest requirements of war. 
They kept awaiting the familiar events for which 
they had been prepared ; but after four years the 
only shots fired on Bayou I'Ombre were at game 
in the forest, the only blood shed was from the 
tottering herds of Texas beeves driven across the 
swamps to them, barely escaping by timely butch- 
ery the starvation they came to relieve, and the 
only heroism they had been called upon to dis- 
play was still going to bed in the dark. Indeed, 
were it not that they knew there was a war they 
might have supposed that some malignant fairy 
had transported them from a state of wealth and 
luxury to the condition of those miserable Ha- 
thorns, the pariahs of their childhood, who lived 
just around the corner from them in the city, 
with whom they had never been allowed to asso- 
ciate. If they had not so industriously fostered the 
proper feelings in their hearts, they might almost 
have forgotten it, or, like Lolotte, been diverted 
from it by the generous overtures of nature all 
around them. But they kept on reminding each 
other that it was not the degrading want of money, 
as in the Hathorns' case, that forced them to live 
on salt meat, corn -bread, and sassafras tea, to 
dress like the negro women in the quarters, that 
deprived them of education and society, and im- 
prisoned them in a swamp-encircled plantation, 
the prey of chills and fever ; but it was for love 
of country, and being little women now, they loved 


their country more, the more they suffered for her. 
Disillusion might have supervened to disappoint- 
ment and bitterness have quenched hope, experi- 
ence might at last have sharpened their vision, but 
for the imagination, that ethereal parasite which 
fattens on the stagnant forces of youth and gar- 
nishes with tropical luxuriance the abnormal source 
of its nourishment. Soaring aloft, above the pro- 
saic actualities of the present, beyond the rebut- 
ting evidence of earth, was a fanciful stage where 
the drama of war such as they craved was un- 
folded ; where neither homespun, starvation, over- 
flows, nor illness were allowed to enter; where 
the heroes and heroines they loved acted roles in 
all the conventional glitter of costume and con- 
duct, amid the dazzling pomps and circumstances 
immortalized in history and romance. Their 
hearts would bound and leap after these phan- 
tasms, like babes in nurses' arms after the moon, 
and would almost burst with longing, their ripe 
little hearts, Pandora-boxes packed with passions 
and pleasures for a lifetime, ready to spring open 
at a touch ! On moonlit nights in summer, or 
under the low gray clouds of winter days, in the 
monotony of nothingness about them, the yearn- 
ing in their breasts was like that of hunting dogs 
howling for the unseen game. Sometimes a ru- 
mor of a battle "out in the Confederacy" would 
find its way across the swamps to them, and 
months afterwards a newspaper would be thrown 


to them from a passing skiff, some old, useless, 
tattered, disreputable, journalistic tramp, garru- 
lous with mendacities ; but it was all true to 
them, if to no one else in the world — the fac- 
titious triumphs, the lurid glories, the pyrotech- 
nicai promises, prophecies, calculations, and Vic- 
tory with the laurel wreath always in the future, 
never out of sight for an instant. They would 
con the fraudulent evangel, entranced ; their 
eyes would sparkle, the blood color their cheeks, 
their voices vibrate, and a strange strength ex- 
cite and nerve their bodies. Then would follow 
wakeful nights and restless days ; Black Marga- 
rets, Jeanne d'Arcs, Maids of Saragossa, Kath- 
erine Douglases, Charlotte Cordays, would haunt 
them like the goblins of a delirium ; then their 
prayers would become imperious demands upon 
Heaven, their diaries would almost break into 
spontaneous combustion from the incendiary ma- 
terial enmagazined in their pages, and the South 
would have conquered the world then and there 
could their hands but have pointed the guns and 
their hearts have recruited the armies. They 
would with mingled pride and envy read all the 
names, barely decipherable in the travel-stained 
record, from the President and Generals in big 
print to the diminishing insignificance of small- 
est-type privates; and they would shed tears, 
when the reaction would come a few days later, 
at the thought that in the whole area of typog- 


raphy, from the officers gaining immortality to 
the privates losing lives, there was not one name 
belonging to them ; and they would ask why, of 
all the families in the South, precisely their father 
and mother should have no relations, why, of all 
the women in the South, they should be brotherless. 

There was Beau, a too notorious guerilla cap- 
tain ; but what glory was to be won by raiding 
towns, wrecking trains, plundering transports, 
capturing couriers, disobeying orders, defying 
regulations ? He was almost as obnoxious to his 
own as to the enemy's flag. 

Besides, Beau at most was only a kind of a 
cousin, the son of a deceased step-sister of their 
father's ; the most they could expect from him was 
to keep his undisciplined crew of " 'Cadians," Ind- 
ians, and swampers away from Bayou I'Ombre. 

" Ah, if we were only men !" But no ! They 
who could grip daggers and shed blood, they who 
teemed with all the possibilities of romance or 
poetry, they were selected for a passive, paltry 
contest against their own necessities ; the endur- 
ance that would have laughed a siege to scorn 
ebbing away in a never-ceasing wrangle with 
fever and ague — willow-bark tea at odds with a 
malarious swamp ! 

' It was now early summer ; the foliage of spring 
was lusty and strong, fast outgrowing tender- 
ness and delicacy of shade, with hints of matu- 
rity already swelling the shape. The day was 


cloudless and warm, the dinner -hour was long 
past, and supper still far off. There were no 
appetizing varieties of menu to make meals ob- 
jects of pleasant anticipation ; on the contrary, 
they had become mournful effigies of a convivial 
institution of which they served at most only to 
recall the hours, monotonously measuring otf the 
recurring days which passed like unlettered mile- 
posts in a desert, with no information to give ex- 
cept that of transition. To-day the meal-times 
were so far apart as to make one believe that the 
sun had given up all forward motion, and intended 
prolonging the present into eternity. The planta- 
tion was quiet and still ; not the dewy hush of early 
dawn trembling before the rising sun, nor the mys- 
terious muteness of midnight, nor yet the lethar- 
gic dulness of summer when the vertical sun-rays 
pin sense and motion to the earth. It was the 
motionless, voiceless state of unnatural quietude, 
the oppressive consciousness of abstracted ac- 
tivity, which characterized those days when the 
whole force of Bayou I'Ombre went off into the 
swamps to- cut timber. Days that began shortly 
after one midnight and lasted to the other ; rare 
days, when neither horn nor bell was heard for 
summons ; when not a skiff, flat-boat, nor pirogue 
was left at the " gunnels ;"* when old Uncle John 
alone remained to represent both master and 

* "Gunnels," floating wharf. 


men in the cares and resiDonsibilities devolving 
upon his sex. The bayou hved and moved as 
usual, carrying its deceptive depths of brackish 
water unceasingly onward through the shadow 
and sunshine, rippling over the opposite low, soft 
banks, which seemed slowly sinking out of sight 
under the weight of the huge cypress-trees grow- 
ing upon it. The long stretch of unfilled fields 
back of the house, feebly kept in symmetrical 
proportion by crumbling fences, bared their rigid, 
seedless furrows in despairing barrenness to the 
sun, except in corner spots where a rank growth 
of weeds had inaugurated a reclamation in favor 
of barbarism. The sugar-house, superannuated 
and decrepit from unwholesome idleness, tottered 
against its own massive, smokeless chimney ; the 
surrounding sheds, stables, and smithy looked for- 
saken and neglected ; the old blind mule peace- 
fully slept in the shade of his once flagellated 
course under the corn-mill. Afar off against the 
woods the huge wheel of the draining-machine 
rose from the underbrush in the big ditch. The 
patient buzzards, roosting on the branches of the 
gaunt, blasted gum-tree by the bayou, would raise 
their heads from time to time to question the loi- 
tering sun, or, slowly flapping their heavy wings, 
circle up into the blue sky, to fall again in lazy 
spirals to their watch-tower, or they would take 
short flights by twos and threes over the moribund 
plantation to see if dissolution had not yet set 


in, and then all would settle themselves agam to 
brood and sleep and dream, and wait in tranquil 
certainty the striking of their banqueting" hour. 

The three girls were in the open hall-way of 
the plantation house, Christine reading, Regina 
knitting, both listlessly occupied. Like every- 
thing else, they were passively quiet, and, like 
everything else, their appearance advertised an 
unwholesome lack of vitality, an insidious ana- 
morphosis from an unexplained dearth or con- 
straint. Their meagre maturity and scant devel- 
opment clashed abnormally with the surrounding 
prodigality of insensible nature. Though tall, 
they were thin ; they were fair, but sallow ; their 
gentle deep eyes were reproachful and deprived- 
looking. If their secluded hearts ventured even 
in thought towards the plumings natural to their 
age, their coarse, homely, ill-fitting garments 
anathematized any coquettish effort or naive ex- 
pression of a desire to find favor. Like the 
fields, they seemed hesitating on the backward 
path from cultivation. Lolotte stood before the 
cherry-wood armoire* that held the hunting and 
fishing tackle, the wholesome receptacle of useful 
odds and ends. Not old enough to have come 
into the war with preconceptions, Lolotte had no 
reconciliations or compromises to effect between 
the ideal and the real, no compensations to solicit 
from an obliging imagination, which so far never 
rose beyond the possibilities of perch, blackbirds, 

r6 BAYOU l'ombre. 

and turtle eggs. The first of these occupied her 
thoughts at the present moment. She had made 
a tryst with the negro children at the draining- 
machine this afternoon. If she could, unper- 
ceived, abstract enough tackle from the armoire for 
the crowd, and if they could slip away from the 
quarters, and she evade the surveillance of Uncle 
John, there would be a diminished number of 
"brim" and "goggle-eye" in the ditch out yon- 
der, and such a notable addition to the planta- 
tion supper to-night as would crown the exploit a 
success, and establish for herself a reputation 
above all annoying recollections of recent mis- 
haps and failures. As she tied the hooks on to 
the lines she saw herself surrounded by the ac- 
claiming infantile populace, pulling the struggling 
perch up one after the other ; she saw them 
strung on palmetto thongs, long strings of them ; 
she walked home at the head of her procession ; 
heard Peggy's exclamations of surprise, smelt 
them frying, and finally was sitting at the table, a 
plate of bones before her, the radiant hostess of 
an imperial feast. 

" Listen !" Like wood-ducks from under the 
water, the three heads rose simultaneously above 
their abstractions. "Rowlock! Rowlock!" The 
eyes might become dull, the tongue inert, and the 
heart languid on Bayou I'Ombre, but the ears 
were ever assiduous, ever on duty. Quivering 
and nervous, they listened even through sleep for 


that one blessed echo of travel, the signal from 
another and a distant world. Faint, shadowy, 
delusive, the whispering forerunner of on-coming 
news, it overrode the rippling of the current, the 
hooting of the owls, the barking of dogs, the splash 
of the gar-fish, the grunting of the alligator, the 
croaking of frogs, penetrating all turmoil, silenc- 
ing all other sounds. "Rowlock! Rowlock!" 
Slow, deliberate, hard, and strenuous, coming up- 
stream ; easy, soft, and musical, gliding down. 
" Rowlock ! Rowlock !" Every stroke a very 
universe of hope, every oar frothing a sea of ex- 
pectation ! Was it the bayou or the secret stream 
of their longing that suggested the sound to- 
day? "Rowlock! Rowlock!" The smouldering 
glances brightened in their eyes, they hollowed 
their hands behind their ears and held their breath 
for greater surety. " Rowlock ! Rowlock !" In 
clear, distinct reiteration. It resolved the mo- 
ment of doubt. 

" Can it be papa coming back ?" 

" No ; it's against stream." 

"It must be swampers." 

" Or hunters, perhaps." 

"Or Indians from the mound." 

" Indians in a skiff ?" 

" Well, they sometimes come in a skiff." 

The contingencies were soon exhausted, a cut- 
off leading travellers far around Bayou I'Ombre, 
whose snaggy, rafted, convoluted course was by 


universal avoidance relegated to an isolation al- 
most insulting. The girls, listening, not to lose a 
single vibration, quit their places and advanced to 
the edge of the gallery, then out under the trees, 
then to the levee, then to the "gunnels," where they 
stretched their long, thin, white necks out of their 
blue and brown check gowns, and shaded their 
eyes and gazed down-stream for the first glimpse of 
the skiff — their patience which had lasted months 
fretting now over the delay of a few moments. 

"At last we shall get some news again." 

" If they only leave a newspaper !" 

" Or a letter," said Lolotte. 

" A letter ! From whom ?" 

" Ah, that's it !" 

"What a pity papa isn't here !" 

" Lolotte, don't shake the gunnels so ; you are 
wetting our feet." 

" How long is it since the last one passed ?" 

" I can tell you," said Lolotte — " I can tell you 
exactly : it was the day Lou Ann fell in the bayou 
and nearly got drowned.'' 

"You mean when you both fell in." 

" I didn't fall in at all ; I held on to the pirogue." 

The weeping-willow on the point below veiled 
the view ; stretching straight out from the bank, it 
dropped its shock of long, green, pliant branches 
into the water, titillating and dimpling the surface. 
The rising bayou bore a freight of logs and drift 
from the swamps above ; rudely pushing their way 



through the willow boughs, they tore and bruised 
the fragile tendrils that clung to the rough bark, 
scattering the tiny leaves which followed hope- 
lessly after in their wake or danced up and down 
in the hollow eddies behind them. Each time the 
willow screen moved, the gunnels swayed under the 
forward motion of the eager bodies of the girls. 

"At last!" 

They turned their eyes to the shaft of sunlight 
that fell through the plantation clearing, bridging 
the stream. The skiff touched, entered, and passed 
through it with a marvellous revelation of form and 
color, the oars silvering and dripping diamonds, 
arrows and lances of light scintillating from pol- 
ished steel, golden stars rising like dust from tas- 
sels, cordons, buttons, and epaulets, while the blue 
clouds themselves seemed to have fallen from their 
empyrean heights to uniform the rowers with their 
own celestial hue — blue, not gray ! 

" Rowlock ! Rowlock !" What loud, frightful, 
threatening reverberations of the oars ! And the 
bayou flowed on the same, and the cypress-trees 
gazed stolidly and steadfastly up to the heavens, 
and the heavens were serenely blue and white ! 
But the earth was sympathetic, the ground shook 
and swayed under their feet ; or was it the rush of 
thoughts that made their heads so giddy ? They 
tried to arrest one and hold it for guidance, but 
on they sped, leaving only wild confusion of con- 
jecture behind. 


" Rowlock ! Rowlock !" The rudder headed 
the bow for the gunnels. 

" Titine ! Gina ! Will they kill us all ?" whis- 
pered Lolotte, with anxious horror. 

The agile Lou Ann, Lolotte's most efficient co- 
adjutor and Uncle John's most successful torment- 
or, dropped her bundle of fishing-poles (which 
he had carefully spread on his roof to "cure "), and 
while they rolled and rattled over the dry shin- 
gles she scrambled with inconceivable haste to 
her corner of descent. Holding to the eaves 
while her excited black feet searched and found 
the top of the window that served as a step, she 
dropped into the ash-hopper below. Without paus- 
ing, as usual, to efface betraying evidences of her 
enterprise from her person, or to cover her tracks 
in the wet ashes, she jumped to the ground, and 
ignoring all secreting offers of bush, fence, or 
ditch, contrary to her custom, she ran with all the 
speed of her thin legs down the shortest road to 
the quarters. They were, as she knew, deserted. 
The doors of the cabins were all shut, with logs 
of wood or chairs propped against them. The 
chickens and dogs were making free of the gal- 
leries, and the hogs wallowed in peaceful immu- 
nity underneath. A waking baby from a lonely 
imprisoned cradle sent cries for relief through an 
open window. Lou Ann, looking neither to the 
right nor the left, slackened not her steps, but 


passed straight on through the little avenue to 
the great white-oak which stood just outside the 
levee on the bank of the bayou. 

Under the wide-spreading, moss-hung branches, 
upon the broad flat slope, a grand general washing 
of the clothes of the small community was in busy 
progress by the women, a proper feminine conse- 
cration of this purely feminine day. The daily 
irksome routine was broken, the men were all 
away, the sun was bright and warm, the air soft 
and sweet. The vague recesses of the opposite 
forest were dim and silent, the bayou played under 
the gunnels in caressing modulations. All fur- 
thered the hearkening and the yielding to a debo- 
nair mood, with disregard of concealment, license 
of pose, freedom of limb, hilarity, conviviality, au- 
dacities of heart and tongue, joyous indulgence in 
freak and impulse, banishment of thought, a re- 
turn, indeed, for one brief moment to the wild, 
sweet ways of nature, to the festal days of ances- 
tral golden age (a short retrogression for them), 
when the body still had claims, and the mind con- 
cessions, and the heart owed no allegiance, and 
when god and satyr eyes still might be caught 
peeping and glistening from leafy covert on femi- 
nine midsummer gambols. Their skirts were girt 
high around their broad full hips, their dark arms 
and necks came naked out of their low, sleeve- 
less, white chemise bodies, and glistened with 
perspiration in the sun as if frosted with silver. 


Little clouds of steam rose from the kettles stand- 
ing around them over heaps of burning chips. 
The splay - legged battling - boards sank firmer 
and firmer into the earth under the blows of the 
bats, pounding and thumping the wet clothes, 
squirting the warm suds in all directions, up into 
the laughing faces, down into the panting bosoms, 
against the shortened, clinging skirts, over the 
bare legs, out in frothy runnels over the soft red 
clay corrugated with innumerable toe-prints. Out 
upon the gunnels the water swished and foamed 
under the vigorous movements of the rinsers, end- 
lessly bending and raising their flexible, muscular 
bodies, burying their arms to the shoulders in the 
cool, green depths, piling higher and higher the 
heaps of tightly-wrung clothes at their sides. The 
water-carriers, passing up and down the narrow, 
slippery plank- way, held the evenly filled pails 
with the ease of coronets upon their heads. The 
children, under compulsion of continuous threats 
and occasional chastisement, fed the fire with 
chips from distant wood-piles, squabbling for the 
possession of the one cane-knife to split kindlers, 
imitating the noise and echoing with absurd fidel- 
ity the full-throated laughter that interrupted from 
time to time the work around the wash-kettles. 

High above the slop and tumult sat old Aunt 
Mary, the official sick-nurse of the plantation, com- 
monly credited with conjuring powers. She held a 
corn-cob pipe between her yellow protruding teeth, 


and her little restless eyes travelled inquisitively 
from person to person as if in quest of profes- 
sional information, twinkling with amusement at 
notable efforts of wit, and with malice at the 
general discomfiture expressed under their gaze. 
Heelen sat near, nursing her baby. She had 
taken off her kerchief, and leaned her uncovered 
head back against the trunk of the tree ; the long 
wisps of wool, tightly wrapped in white knitting- 
cotton, rose from irregular sections all over her 
elongated narrow skull, and encircled her wrinkled, 
nervous, toothless face like some ghastly serpen- 
tine chevelure. 

" De Yankees ! de Yankees ! I seed 'em — at 
de big house ! Little mistus she come for Uncle 
John. He fotched his gun — for to shoot 'em," 

Lou Ann struggled to make her exhausted 
breath carry all her tidings. After each item 
she closed her mouth and swallowed violently, 
working her muscles until her little horns of 
hair rose and moved with the contortions of her 

"An' dey locked a passel o' men up in de 
smoke-house— Cornfedrits." 

The bats paused in the air, the women on the 
gunnels lifted their arms out of the water, those 
on the gang-plank stopped where they were ; only 
the kettles simmered on audibly. 

Lou Ann recommenced, this time finishing in 
one breath, with the added emphasis of raising her 


arm and pointing in the direction from whence 
she came, her voice getting shriller and shriller 
to the end : 

" I seed 'em. Dey was Yankees. Little mis- 
tus she come for Uncle John ; he fotched his gun 
for to shoot 'em ; and they locked a passel o' 
men up in de smoke-house — Cornfedrits." 

The Yankees ! What did it mean to them ? 
How much from the world outside had pene- 
trated into the unlettered fastnesses of their igno- 
rance ? What did the war mean to them ? Had 
Bayou I'Ombre indeed isolated both mind ^nd 
body ? Had the subtle time-spirit itself been di- 
verted from them by the cut-off ? Could their 
rude minds draw no inferences from the gradual 
loosening of authority and relaxing of discipline ? 
Did they neither guess nor divine their share in 
the shock of battle out there ? Could their ghost- 
seeing eyes not discern the martyr-spirits rising 
from two opposing armies, pointing at, beckon- 
ing to them ? If, indeed, the water-shed of their 
destiny was forming without their knowledge as 
without their assistance, could not maternal in- 
stinct spell it out of the heart-throbs pulsing into 
life under their bosoms, or read from the dumb 
faces of the children at their breast the triumph- 
ant secret of their superiority over others born and 
nourished before them ? 

Had they, indeed, no gratifications beyond the 
physical, no yearnings, no secret burden of a 


secret prayer to God, these bonded wives and 
mothers ? Was this careless, happy, indolent ex- 
istence genuine, or only a fool's motley to dis- 
guise a tragedy of suffering ? What to them was 
the difference between themselves and their mis- 
tresses ? their condition ? or their skin, that opaque 
black skin which hid so well the secrets of life, 
which could feel but not own the blush of shame, 
the pallor of weakness. 

If their husbands had brought only rum from 
their stealthy midnight excursions to distant 
towns, how could the child repeat it so glibly — 
"Yankees — Cornfedrits ?" The women stood still 
and silent, but their eyes began to creep around 
furtively, as if seeking degrees of complicity in a 
common guilt, each waiting for the other to con- 
fess comprehension, to assume the responsibility 
of knowledge. 

The clear-headed children, profiting by the dis- 
traction of attention from them, stole away for 
their fishing engagement, leaving cane -knife and 
chips scattered on the ground behind them. The 
murmuring of the bayou seemed to rise louder 
and louder ; the cries of the forsaken baby, clam- 
orous and hoarse, fell distinctly on the air. 

" My Gord A'mighty !" 

The exclamation was uncompromising ; it re- 
lieved the tension and encouraged rejoinder. 

" My Lord !— humph !" 

One bat slowly and deliberately began to beat 


again — Black Maria's. Her tall, straight back 
was to them, but, as if they saw it, they knew that 
her face was settling into that cold, stern rigidity 
of hers, the keen eyes beginning to glisten, the 
long, thin nostrils nervously to twitch, the lips to 
open over her fine white teeth — the expression 
they hated and feared. 

"0-h! o-h! o-h!" 

A long, thin, tremulous vibration, a weird, haunt- 
ing note : what inspiration suggested it ? 

" Glo-o-ry !" 

Old Aunt Mary nodded her knowing head af- 
firmatively, as if at the fulfilment of a silent proph- 
ecy. She quietly shook the ashes out of her pipe, 
hunted her pocket, put it in, and rising stiffly from 
the root, hobbled away on her stick in the direc- 
tion of her cabin. 

" Glo-o-ry !" 

Dead-arm Harriet stood before them, with her 
back to the bayou, her right arm hanging heavy 
at her side, her left extended, the finger pointing 
to the sky. A shapely arm and tapering finger ; 
a comely, sleek, half -nude body; the moist lips, 
with burning red linings, barely parting to emit 
the sound they must have culled in uncanny prac- 
tices. The heavy lids drooped over the large 
sleepy eyes, looking with languid passion from 
behind the thick black lashes. 

" Glo-o-ry !" It stripped their very nerves and 
bared secret places of sensation ! The " happy " 


cry of revival meetings — as if midnight vi^ere com- 
ing on, salvation and the mourners' bench be- 
fore them, Judgment-day and fiery flames behind 
them, and "Sister Harriet" raising her voice to 
call them on, on, through hand - clapping, foot- 
stamping, shouting, groaning, screaming, out of 
their sins, out of their senses, to rave in religious 
inebriation, and fall in religious catalepsy across 
the floor at the preacher's feet. With a wild rush,- 
the hesitating emotions of the women sought the 
opportune outlet, their hungry blood bounding 
and leaping for the mid- day orgy. Obediently 
their bodies began the imperceptible motion right 
and left, and the veins in their throats to swell and 
stand out under their skins, while the short, fierce, 
intense responsive exclamations fell from their 
lips to relieve their own and increase the exalta- 
tion of the others. 

" Sweet Christ ! sweet Christ !" 
" Take me, Saviour !" 
" Oh, de Lamb ! de Lamb !" 
"I'm a-coming! I'm a-coming !" 
" Hold back, Satan ! we's a-catching on f 
" De blood's a-dripping ! de blood's a-dripping !" 
" Let me kiss dat cross ! let me kiss it !" 
" Sweet Master !" 

"Glo-o-ry! Fre-e-dom!" It was a whisper, but 
it came like a crash, and transfixed them ; their 
mouths stood open with the last words, their 
bodies remained bent to one side or the other, 


the febrile light in their eyes burning as if from 
their blood on fire. They could all remember the 
day when Dead -arm Harriet, the worst worker 
and most violent tongue of the gang, stood in the 
clearing, and raising that dead right arm over her 
head, cursed the overseer riding away in the dis- 
tance. The wind had been blowing all day; there 
was a sudden loud crack above them, and a limb 
from a deadened tree broke, sailed, poised, and 
fell crashing to her shoulder, and deadening her 
arm forever. They looked instinctively now with 
a start to the oak above them, to the sky — only 
moss and leaves and blue and white clouds. And 
still Harriet's voice rose, the words faster, louder, 
bolder, more determined, whipping them out of 
their awe, driving them on again down the incline 
of their own passions. 

"Glory! Freedom! Freedom! Glory!" 
" I'm bound to see 'em ! Come along !" 
Heelen's wild scream rang shrill and hysterical. 
She jerked her breast from the sucking lips, and 
dropped her baby with a thud on the ground. 
They all followed her up the levee, pressing one 
after the other, slipping in the wet clay, strug- 
gling each one not to be left behind. Em- 
meline, the wife of little Ben, the only yellow 
woman on the place, was the last. Her skirt 
was held in a grip of iron ; blinded, obtuse, she 
pulled forward, reaching her arms out after the 


" You Stay here !" 

She turned and met the determined black face 
of her mother-in-law. 

"You let me go !" she cried, half sobbing, half 

" You stay here, I tell you !" The words were 
muttered through clinched teeth. 

"You let me go, I tell you !" 

" Glory ! Freedom !" 

The others had already left the quarters, and 
were on the road. They two were alone on the 
bank now, except Heelen's baby, whimpering un- 
der the tree ; their blazing eyes glared at each 
other. The singing voices grew fainter and faint- 
er. Suddenly the yellow face grew dark with the 
surge of blood underneath, the brows wrinkled, 
and the lips protruded in a grimace of animal 
rage. Grasping her wet bat tightly with both 
hands, she turned with a furious bound, and raised 
it with all the force of her short muscular arms. 
The black woman darted to the ground ; the cane- 
knife flashed in the air and came down pitilessly 
towards the soft fleshy shoulder. A wild, terri- 
fied scream burst from Emmeline's lips ; the bat 
dropped ; seizing her skirt with both hands, she 
pulled forward, straining her back out of reach of 
the knife; the homespun tore, and she fled up the 
bank, her yellow limbs gleaming through the rent 
left by the fragment in the hand of the black 


The prisoners were so young, so handsome, so 
heroic ; the very incarnation of the holy spirit of 
patriotism in their pathetic uniform of brimless 
caps, ragged jackets, toeless shoes, and shrunken 
trousers — a veteran equipment of wretchedness 
out of keeping with their fresh young faces. How 
proud and unsubdued they walked through the 
hall between the file of bayonets! With what 
haughty, defiant eyes they returned the gaze of 
their insultingly resplendent conquerors ! Oh, if 
girls' souls had been merchantable at that moment ! 
Their hands tied behind their backs like runaway 
slaves ! Locked up in the smoke - house ! that 
dark, rancid, gloomy, mouldy depot of empty hogs- 
heads, barrels, boxes, and fetid exhalations. 

They were the first soldiers in gray the girls 
had ever seen ; their own chivalrous knights, the 
champions of their radiant country. What was 
the story of their calamity? Treacherously en- 
trapped .-• Overpowered by numbers ? Where 
were their companions — staring with mute, cold, 
upturned faces from pools of blood ? And were 
these to be led helplessly tethered into cap- 
tivity, imprisoned ; with ball and chain to gan- 
grene and disgrace their strong young limbs, or 
was solitary confinement to starve their hearts and 
craze their minds, holding death in a thousand 
loathsome, creeping shapes ever threatejiingly 
over them ? 

The smoke-house looked sinister and inimical 


after its sudden promotion from keeper of food 
to keeper of men. The great square whitewashed 
logs seemed to settle more ponderously on the 
ground around them, the pointed roof to press 
down as if the air of heaven were an emissary to 
be dreaded ; the hinges and locks were so osten- 
tatiously massive and incorruptible. What artful, 
what vindictive security of carpenter and lock- 
smith to exclude thieves or immure patriots ! 

The two eldest girls stood against the open 
armoire with their chill fingers interlaced. Be- 
yond the wrinkled back of Uncle John's copperas- 
dyed coat before them lay the region of brass 
buttons and blue cloth and hostility; but they 
would not look at it ; they turned their heads 
away; the lids of their eyes refused to lift and 
reveal the repugnant vision to them. If their 
ears had only been equally sensitive ! 

" And so you are the uncle of the young ladies ? 
Brother of the father or mother.'"' What clear, 
incisive, nasal tones ! Thank Heaven for the dif- 
ference between them of the voice at least ! 

The captain's left arm was in a sling, but his 
hand could steadily hold the note-book in which 
he carefully pencilled Uncle John's answers to 
his minute cross-examination — a dainty, fragrant, 
Russia - leather note - book, with monogram and 
letters and numbers emblazoned on the outside 
in national colors. It had photographs inside, 
also, which he would pause and admire from time 


to time, reading the tender dedications aloud to 
his companions. 

"And the lady in the kitchen called mammy? 
She is the mother, I guess ?" 

" P-p-p-peggy's a nigger, and my mistresses is 
white," stuttered Uncle John. 

" Ah, indeed ! Gentlemen in my uniform find 
it difficult to remember these trifling distinctions 
of color." 

What tawdry pleasantry ! What hypocritical 
courtesy ! What exquisite ceremony and dainty 
manual for murderous dandies ! 

" Ef-ef-ef-ef I hadn't done gone and forgot dem 
caps !" 

Uncle John stood before his young mistresses 
erect and determined, his old double-barrel shot- 
gun firmly clasped in his tremulous hands, his 
blear, bloodshot eyes fearlessly measuring the 
foe. If it were to be five hundred lashes on his 
bare back under the trees out there (terms on 
which he would gladly have compromised), or, 
his secret fear, a running noose over one of the 
branches, or the murderous extravagance of powder 
and shot for him, he had made up his mind, de- 
spite every penalty, to fulfil his duty and stand by 
his word to Marse John. Ever since the time the 
little crawling white boy used to follow the great 
awkward black boy around like a shadow, John had 
made a cult of Marse John. He had taught him 
as a child to fish, hunt, trap birds, to dress skins. 


knit gloves, and play cards on the sly, to fight 
cocks on Sunday, to stutter, to cut the "pigeon 
wing " equal to any negro in the State — and other 
personal accomplishments besides. He had stood 
by him through all his scrapes as a youth, was 
valet to all his frolics as a young man, and now 
in his old age he gardened for him, and looked 
after the young ladies for him, stretching or con- 
tracting his elastic moral code as occasion re- 
quired ; but he had never deceived him nor falsi- 
fied his word to him. He knew all about the 
war : Marse John had told him. He knew what 
Marse John meant when he left the children to 
him, and Marse John knew what to expect from 
John. He would treat them civilly as long as 
they were civil, but his gun was loaded, both bar- 
rels with bullets, and — 

" Ef-ef-ef-ef I hadn't done gone and forgot dera 
caps !" 

There was his powder-horn under one arm, 
there was his shot-flask filled with the last batch 
of slugs under the other ; but the caps were not 
in his right-hand coat-pocket, they were in his 
cupboard, hidden for safety under a pile of gar- 
den " truck." 

The busy martins twittered in and out of their 
little lodge under the eaves of the smoke-house. 
Regina and Christine were powerless to prevent 
furtive glances in that direction. Could ihepn's- 
oners hear it inside ? Could they see the sun trav- 


elling westward, crack by crack, chink by chink, in 
the roof? Could they feel it sinking, and with it 
sinking all their hopes of deliverance ? Or did 
they hope still ? 

Maidens had mounted donjon towers at mid- 
night, had eluded Argus-eyed sentinels, had 
drugged savage blood-hounds, had crossed light- 
ning-flashed seas, had traversed robber -infested 
forests ; whatever maidens had done they would 
do, for could ever men more piteously implore 
release from castle keep than these gray- clad 
youths from the smoke-house? And did ever 
maiden hearts beat more valiantly than theirs ? 
(and did ever maiden limbs tremble more cow- 
ardly ?) Many a tedious day had been lightened 
by their rehearsal of just such a drama as this ; 
they had prepared roles for every imaginable san- 
guinary circumstance, but prevision, as usual, had 
overlooked the unexpected. The erstwhile fea- 
sible conduct, the erstwhile feasible weapons, of a 
Jeanne d'Arc or Charlotte Corday, the defiant 
speeches, the ringing retorts — how inappropriate, 
inadequate, here and now ! If God would only 
help them ! but, like the bayou, the cypresses, and 
the blue sky, He seemed to-day eternally above 
such insignificant human necessities as theirs. 

Without the aid of introspection or the fear of 
capital punishment, Lolotte found it very difficult 
to maintain the prolonged state of rigidity into 
which her sisters had frozen themselves. All the 


alleviations devised during a wearisome experi- 
ence of compulsory attendance on plantation fu- 
nerals were exhausted in the course of this pro- 
tracted, hymnless, prayerless solemnity. She 
stood wedged in between them and the armoire 
which displayed all its shelves of allurements to 
her. There were her bird-traps just within reach ; 
there was the fascinating bag of nux-vomica root 
' — crow poison ; there was the little old work-box 
filled with ammunition, which she was forbidden 
to touch, and all the big gar-fish lines and har- 
poons and decoy-ducks. There were her own 
perch lines, the levy she had raised in favor of 
her companions ; they were neatly rolled, ready 
to tie on the rods, only needing sinkers ; and 
there was the old Indian basket filled with odds 
and ends, an unfailing treasure of resource and 
surprise. She was just about searching in it for 
sinkers when this interruption occurred. 

The sky was so bright over the fields ! Just 
the evening to go fishing, whether they caught 
anything or not. If the enemy would only hurry 
and go, there might still be time ; they would 
leave, they said, as soon as mammy cooked them 
something to eat. She had seen mammy chasing 
a chicken through the yard. She wondered how 
the nice, fat little round " doodles " were getting 
on in their tin can under the house ; she never 
had had such a fine box of bait ; she wondered 
if the negro children would go all the same with- 


out her; she wondered if she could see them 
creeping down the road. How easy she could 
have got away from Uncle John ! Anything al- 
most would do for sinkers — bits of iron, nails ; 
they had to do since her father and Uncle John 
made their last moulding of bullets. She thought 
they might have left her just one real sinker sim- 
ply as a matter of distinction between herself and 
the little darkies. Her eyes kept returning to the 
Indian basket, and if she stopped twisting her fin- 
gers one over the other but a moment they would 
take their way to rummaging among the rusty 

" Glory ! Freedom !" 

In came the negresses, Bacchantes drunk with 
the fumes of their own hot blood, Dead-arm Har- 
riet, like a triumphant sorceress, leading them, 
waving and gesticulating with her one " live " arm, 
all repeating over and over again the potent 
magical words, oblivious of the curious looks of 
the men, their own exposure, the presence of their 
mistresses, of everything but^their own ecstasy. 

" Freedom ! Master ! Freedom !" 

Christine and Regina raised their heads and 
looked perplexed at the furious women in the 
yard, and the men gazing down to them. 

What was the matter with them ? What did 
they mean ? What was it all about .-' 

" Freedom ! Freedom !" 

Then light broke upon them ; their fingers 


tightened in each other's clasp, and their cheeks 
flushed crimson. 

"How dared they.? What insolence ! What — " 

The opposite door stood open ; they rushed 
across the hall and closed it between them and 
the liLmiiliating scene. This, this they had not 
thought of, this they had never read about, this 
their imagination in wildest flights had not vent- 
ured upon. This was not a superficial conflict 
to sweep the earth with cannons and mow it with 
sabres ; this was an earthquake which had rent 
it asunder, exposing the quivering organs of hid- 
den life. What a chasm was yawning before 
them ! There was no need to listen one to the 
other ; the circumstances could wring from the 
hearts of millions but one sentiment, the tongue 
was left no choice of words. 

" Let them go ! let them be driven out ! never, 
never to see them again !" 

The anger of outraged affection, betrayed con- 
fidence, abandoned trust, traitorous denial, raged 
within them. 

These were their servants, their possessions ! 
From generation to generation their lives had 
been woven together by the shuttle of destiny. 
How flimsy and transparent the fabric ! how gro- 
tesque and absurd the tapestry, with its vaunted 
traditions of mutual loyalty and devotion ! What 
a farce, what a lying, disgusting farce it had all 
been ! Well, it was over now ; that was a com- 


fort — all over, all ended. If the hearts had in- 
tergrown, they were torn apart now. After this 
there was no return, no reconciliation possible ! 
Through the storm of their emotions a thought 
drifted, then another ; little detached scenes flit- 
ted into memory; familiar gestures, speeches, 
words, one reminiscence drawing another. Thick- 
er and thicker came little episodes of their pas- 
toral existence together ; the counter interchanges 
of tokens, homely presents, kind offices, loving 
remembrances ; the mutual assistance and con- 
solation in all the accidents "of life traversed to- 
gether, the sicknesses, the births, the deaths ; and 
so many thousand trivial incidents of long, long 
ago — memory had not lost one — down to the 
fresh eggs and the pop-corn of that very morning ; 
they were all there, falling upon their bruised 

In the hearts of the women out there were only 
shackles and scourges. What of the long Sun- 
days of Bible - reading and catechism, the long 
evenings of woodland tales ; the confidences ; 
the half-hours around the open fireplaces when 
supper was cooking, the potatoes under their 
hillocks of ashes, the thin-legged ovens of corn- 
bread with their lids of glowing coals, the savory 
skillets of fried meat, the — Was it indeed all 
of the past, never again to be present or future ? 
And those humble, truthful, loving eyes, which 
had looked up to them from the first moment 


of their lives : did they look with greater trust 
up to God Himself? It was all over, yes, all 
over ! The color faded from their faces, the 
scornful resolution left their lips ; they laid their 
faces in their hands and sobbed. 

" Do you hear, Titine ?" Lolotte burst into 
the room. " They are all going to leave, every 
one of them ; a transport is coming to-night to 
take them off. They are going to bundle up 
their things and wait at the steamboat-landing ; 
and they are not going to take a child, and not 
a single husband. The captain says the govern- 
ment at Washington will give them the nicest 
white husbands in the land ; that they ought to 
be glad to marry them. They carried on as if 
they were drunk. Do you believe it, Titine ? 
Oh, I do wish Jeff Davis would hurry up and 
win !" 

The door opened again ; it was Black Maria, 
still holding the cane - knife in her hand. She 
crossed the room with her noiseless barefooted 
tread, and placed herself behind them. They 
did not expect her to say anything ; Black Maria 
never talked much ; but they understood her, as 
they always did. 

Her skirts were still tied up, her head-kerchief 
awry; they saw for the first time that the wool 
under it was snow-white. 

Black Maria! They might have known it! 
They looked at her. No ! She was not ! She 


was not negro, like the others. Who was she ? 
What was she ? Wliere did she come from, with 
her white features and white nature under her 
ebon skin ? What was the mystery that envel- 
oped her ? Why did the brain always torture it- 
self in surmises about her ? Why did she not 
talk as the others did, and just for a moment un- 
cover that coflfin heart of hers? Why was she, 
alone of all the negroes, still an alien, a foreigner, 
an exile among them ? Was she brooding on 
disgrace, outrage, revenge ? Was she looking at 
some mirage behind her — a distant equatorial 
country, a princely rank, barbaric state, some in- 
herited memory transmitted by that other Black 
Maria, her mother ? Who was the secret black 
father whom no one had discovered ? Was it, as 
the negroes said, the Prince of Darkness ? Who 
was her own secret consort, the father of Ben ? 
What religion had she to warrant her scornful re- 
pudiation of Christianity ? What code that en- 
abled her to walk as if she were free through 
slavery, to assume slavery now when others hailed 
freedom, to be loyal in the midst of treason ? 

"Look!" Lolotte came into the room, and held 
up a rusty, irregular piece of iron. " I found 
this in the old Indian basket where I was look- 
ing for sinkers. Don't you see what it is ? It is 
the old key of the smoke-house, and I am going 
to let those Confederates out." She spoke 
quietly and decidedly. I'here was something 


else in the other hand, concealed in the folds of 
her dress. She produced it reluctantly. It was 
the gun-wrench that filled so prominent a part in 
her active life — always coveting it, getting pos- 
session of it, being deprived of it, and accused 
unfailingly for its every absence and misplace- 
ment. " You see, it is so convenient ; it screws 
so nicely on to everything," she continued, apol- 
ogetically, as she demonstrated the useful qualifi- 
cation by screwing it on to the key. " There ! it 
is as good as a handle. All they've got to do is 
to slip away in the skiff while the others are eat- 
ing. And I would like to know how they can 
ever be caught, without another boat on the 
place ! But oh, girls " — her black eyes twinkled 
maliciously — " what fools the Yankees are 1" 

If the Federals, as they announced, were only 
going to remain long enough for the lady in the 
kitchen to prepare them something to eat, the 
length of their stay clearly rested in Peggy the 
cook's hands, as she understood it. She walked 
around her kitchen with a briskness rarely per- 
mitted by her corpulent proportions, and with an 
intuitive faith in the common nature of man re- 
gardless of political opinion, she exerted her cu- 
linary skill to the utmost. She knew nothing of 
the wholesale quarrelling and fighting of a great 
war, but during her numerous marital experi- 
ments, not counting intermittent conjugalities for 
twenty-five years with Uncle John, she had seen 


inercy and propitiation flow more than once after 
a good meal from the most irate ; and a healthy 
digestion aiding, she never despaired of even 
the most revengeful. The enemy, in her opinion, 
were simply to' be treated like furious husbands, 
and were to be offered the best menu possible 
under the trying circumstances. She worked, in- 
spired by all the wife-lore of past ages, the infil- 
trated wisdom that descends to women in the 
course of a world of empirical connubiality, that 
traditionary compendium to their lives by which 
they still hope to make companionship with men 
harmonious and the earth a pleasant abiding-place. 
With minute particularity Peggy set the table and 
placed the dishes. The sun was now sinking, and 
sending almost horizontal rays over the roof of 
the smoke-house, whose ugly square frame com- 
pletely blocked the view of the dining-room win- 
dow. Peggy carefully drew the red calico curtain 
across it, and after a moment's rehearsal to bring 
her features to the conventional womanly ex- 
pression of cheerful obtuseness to existing dis- 
pleasure, she opened the dining-room door. 

Gina and Lolotte stood close under the win- 
dow against the dwelling, looking at the locked 
door of the smoke-house before them, listening to 
the sounds falling from the dining-room above. 
Once in the skiff, the prisoners were safe ; but 
the little red curtain of the window fluttering 
flimsily in the breeze coquetted with their hopes 


and the lives of three men. If the corners would 
but stay down a second ! Titine and Black Ma- 
ria were in front, busy about the skiff. Peggy's 
culinary success appeared, from the comments of 
the diners, to be complimentary to her judgment. 
But food alone, however, does not suffice in 
the critical moments of life ; men are half man- 
aged when only fed. There was another menu, 
the ingredients of which were not limited or 
stinted by blockade of war. Fe.ggy had pre- 
pared that also ; and in addition to the sounds 
of plates, knives, forks, and glasses, came the 
tones of her rich voice dropping from a quick 
tongue the entremets of her piquant imagination. 
The attention in the room seemed tense, and at 
last the curtain hung straight and motionless. 

" Now ! now !" whispered Gina. " We must 
risk something." 

Woman-like, they paused midway and looked 
back ; a hand stretched from the table was care- 
lessly drawing the curtain aside, and the window 
stared unhindered at the jail. 

Why had they waited ? Why had they not 
rushed forward immediately 1 By this time their 
soldiers might have been free ! They could hear 
Peggy moving around the table ; they could see 
her bulky form push again and again across the 

" Mammy ! Mammy !" 

Could she hear them ? They clasped their 


hands and held their faces up in imploring ap- 
peal. The sun was setting fast, almost running 
down the west to the woods. The dinner, if good, 
was not long. It all depended upon Peggy now. 

" Mammy ! Mammy !" They raised their lit- 
tle voices, then lowered them in agony of appre- 
hension. " Mammy, do something ! Help us !" 

But still she passed on and about, around the 
table, and across the window, blind to the smoke- 
house, deaf to them, while her easy, familiar 
voice recited the comical gyrations of " old Friz- 
zly," the half-witted hen, who had set her heart 
against being killed and stewed, and ran and hid, 
and screamed and cackled, and ducked and flew, 
and then, after her silly head was twisted off, 
"just danced, as if she were at a "Cadian' ball, 
all over the yard." 

It would soon be too late ! It was, perhaps, 
too late now ! 

Black Maria had got the skiff away from the 
gunnels, but they might just as well give it up ; 
they would not have time enough now. 

" Mammy !" The desperate girls made a su- 
preme effort of voice and look. The unctuous 
black face, the red bead ear-rings, the bandanna 
head-kerchief, appeared at the window with " old 
Frizzly's " last dying cackle. There was one 
flashing wink of the left eye. 

Her nurslings recognized then her piece dc re- 
sistance oratoire — a side-splitting prank once 



played upon her by another nursling, her pet, her 
idol, the plague of her life — Beau. 

Who could have heard grating lock or squeak- 
ing hinges through the boisterous mirth that fol- 
lowed? Who could have seen the desperate 
bound of the three imprisoned soldiers for liberty 
through that screen of sumptuous flesh — the mag- 
nificent back of Mammy that filled to overlap- 
ping the insignificant little window ? 

They did not wait to hear the captain's rapt- 
urous toast to Peggy in sassafras tea, nor his vol- 
uble protestations of love to her, nor could they 
see him in his excitement forgetting his wounded 
arm, bring both clinched fists with a loud bravo 
to the table, and then faint dead away. 

" I knew it !" 

" Just like him !" 

" Take him in the air — quick !" 

" No, sir ! You take him in there, and put 
him on the best bed in the house." Peggy did 
not move from the window, but her prompt com- 
mand turned the soldiers from the door in the 
hall, and her finger directed them to the closed 

Without noticing Christine standing by the 
open window, they dropped their doughty bur- 
den — boots, spurs, sword, epaulets, and all — on 
the fresh, white little bed, the feather mattress 
flufling up all around as if to submerge him. 

" Oh, don't bother about that ; cut the sleeve off!" 


" Who has a knife ?" 

" There." 

"That's all right now." 

" He's coming round." 

" There's one nice coat spoiled." 

"Uncle Sam has plenty more." 

" Don't let it drip on the bed." 

" Save it to send to Washington — trophy — wet 
with rebel blood." 

The captain was evidently recovering. 

"You stay here while I keep 'em eating," whis- 
pered Peggy, authoritatively, to Christine. 

Titine trembled as if she had an ague. 

" How could they help seeing the tall form of 
Black Maria standing in the prow of the boat out 
in the very middle of the bayou ? Suppose she, 
Titine, had not been there to close the window 
quick as thought ? Suppose instead of passing 
through her room she had run through the base- 
ment, as she intended, after pushing off the skiff ?" 

Rollicking, careless, noisj^, the soldiers went 
back to their interrupted meal, while the boat 
went cautiously clown the bayou to the meeting 
place beyond the clearing. 

" How far was Black Maria now ?" Titine 
opened the window a tiny crack. " Heavens ! 
how slowly she paddled ! lifting the oar deliber- 
ately from side to side, looking straight ahead. 
How clear and distinct she was in the soft even- 
ing light ! Why did she not hurry ? why did she 



not row? She could have muffled the oars. But 
no, no one thought of that ; that was always the 
way — always something overlooked and forgotten. 
The soldiers could finish a dozen dinners before 
the skiff got out of sight at this rate. Without the 
skiff the prisoners might just as well be locked 
still in the smoke-house. Did he on the bed sus- 
pect something, seeing her look out this way?" 
She closed the window tight. 

" How dark the room was ! She could hardly 
see the wounded man. How quiet he was ! Was 
he sleeping, or had he fainted again ? In her bed ! 
her enemy lying in her bed ! his head on her pil- 
low, her own little pillow, the feverish confidant 
of so many sleepless nights ! How far were they 
now on the bayou? She must peep out again. 
Why, Maria had not moved ! not moved an inch ! 
Oh, if she could only scream to her ! if she were 
only in the skiff ! 

" How ghastly pale he looked on the bed ! his 
face as white as the coverlet, his hair and beard 
so black ; how changed without his bravado and 
impertinence! And he was not old, either; not 
older than the boys in gray. She had fancied 
that age and ugliness alone could go with violence 
and wrong. How much gold ! how much glitter ! 
Why, the sun did not rise with more splendor of 
equipment. Costumed as if for the conquest of 
worlds. If the Yankees dressed their captains 
this way, what was the livery of their generals ? 


How curious the sleeveless arm looked ! What 
a horrible mark the gash made right across the 
soft white skin ! What a scar it would leave ! 
What a disfigurement ! And this, this is what 
men call love of country !" 

On Saturday nights sometimes, in the quarters, 
when rum had been smuggled in, the negroes 
would get to fighting and beating their wives, and 
her father would be sent for in a hurry to come 
with his gun and separate them. Hatchets, axes, 
cane-knives — anything they would seize, to cut 
and slash one another, husbands, wives, mothers, 
sons, sisters, brothers; but they were negroes, 
ignorant, uneducated, barbarous, excited ; they 
could not help it ; they could not be expected to 
resist all at once the momentum of centuries of 
ancestral ferocity. But for white men, gentlemen, 
thus furiously to mar and disfigure their own 
mother-given bodies ! All the latent maternal in- 
stinct in her was roused, all the woman in her re- 
volted against the sacrilegious violence of muti- 
lation. " Love of country to make her childless, 
or only the mother of invalids! This was only 
one. What of the other thousands and hundreds 
of thousands ? Are men indeed so inexhaustible ? 
Are the pangs of maternity so cheap ? Are wom- 
en's hearts of no account whatever in the settle- 
ment of disputes? O God! cannot the world 
get along without war ? But even if men want it, 
even if God permits it, how can the women allow 



it ? If the man on the bed were a negro, she 
could do something for his arm. Many a time, 
early Sunday mornings, Saturday night culprits 
had come to her secretly, and she had washed off 
the thick, gummy blood, and bandaged up their 
cuts and bruises ; they did not show so on black 
skin. . . . This man had a mother somewhere 
among the people she called ' enemies ;' a mother 
sitting counting day by day the continued posses- 
sion of a live son, growing gray and old before 
that terrible next minute ever threatening to take 
her boy and give her a corpse. Or perhaps, like 
her own, his mother might be dead. They might 
be friends in that kingdom which the points of the 
compass neither unite nor divide ; together they 
might be looking down on this quarrelling, fight- 
ing world ; mothers, even though angels, looking, 
looking through smoke and powder and blood 
and hatred after their children. Their eyes 
might be fixed on this lonely little spot, on this 
room. . . ." She walked to the bed. 

The blood was oozing up through the strips of 
plaster. She stanched and bathed and soothed 
the wound as she well knew how with her tender, 
agile fingers, and returned to the window. Maria 
had disappeared now ; she could open the window 
with impunity. The trackless water was flowing 
innocently along, the cooling air was rising in mist, 
the cypress -trees checked the brilliant sky with 
the filigree and net-work of their bristly foliage. 


The birds twittered, the chickens loitered and 
dallied on their way to roost. The expectant dogs 
were lying on the levee waiting for the swampers, 
who, they ought to know, could not possibly re- 
turn before midnight. And Molly was actually on 
time this evening, lowing for mammy to come and 
milk her ; what was the war to her ? How happy 
and peaceful it all was ! What a jarring contrast 
to swords and bayonets ! Thank God that Nature 
was impartial, and could not be drilled into par- 
tisanship ! If humanity were like Nature ! If — 
if there had been no war ! She paused, shocked 
at her first doubt ; of the great Circumstance of 
her life it was like saying, " If there had been no 
God !" 

As she stood at the window and thought, all the 
brilliant coloring of her romantic fantasies, the 
stories of childhood, the perversions of education, 
the self-delusions, they all seemed to fade with 
the waning light, and with the beautiful day sink 
slowly and quietly into the irrevocable past. 
" Thank God, above all, that it is a human de- 
vice to uniform people into friends and enemies ! 
The heart (her own felt so soft and loving) — the 
heart repudiates such attempts of blue and gray ; 
it still clings to Nature, and belongs only to God." 
She thought the wound must need tending again, 
and returned to the bed. The patient, meanwhile, 
went in and out of the mazes of unconsciousness 
caused by weakness. 


" Was that really he on this foamy bed ? What 
a blotch his camp-battered body made down the 
centre of it ! It was good to be on a bed once 
more, to look up into a mosquito-bar instead of 
the boughs of trees, to feel his head on a pillow. 
But why did they put him there ? Why did they 
not lay him somewhere on the floor, outside on 
the ground, instead of soiling and crumpling this 
lily-white surface?" 

He could observe his nurse through his half- 
closed lids, which fell as she approached the bed, 
and closed tight as she bent above him. When 
she stood at the window he could look full at her. 
" How innocent and unsuspecting she looked !" 
The strained rigidity had passed away from her 
face. Her transparent, child-like eyes were look- 
ing with all their life of expression in the direc- 
tion of the bed, and then at something passing in 
her own mind. " Thank Heaven, the fright had 
all gone out of them ! How horrible for a gentle- 
man to read fear in the eyes of a woman ! Her 
mind must be as pure and white, yes, and as im- 
pressionable, too, as her bed. Did his presence lie 
like a blot upon it also ? How she must hate 
him ! how she must loathe him ! Would it have 
been different if he had come in the other uniform 
— if he had worn the gray ? would she then have 
cared for him, have administered to him ? How 
slight and frail she was ! What a wan, wistful 
little face between him and the gloomy old bayou ! 

52 BAYOU l'oMBRE. 

He could see her more plainly now since she had 
opened the window and let in the cool, fragrant 
air. There was no joyous development of the 
body in her to proclaim womanhood, none of the 
seductive, confident beauty that follows corona- 
tion of youth ; to her had only come the care and 
anxiety of maturity. This — this,'" he exclaimed 
to himself, " is the way women fight a war." Was 
she coming this way .'' Yes. To the bed ? Hard- 
ly. Now she was pressing against it, now bend- 
ing over him, now dropping a cooling dew from 
heaven on his burning arm, and now — oh, why so 
soon ? — she was going away to stand and look 
out of the window again. 

The homely little room was filled with femi- 
nine subterfuges for ornament, feminine substi- 
tutes for comfort. How simple women are ! how 
little they require, after all ! only peace and love 
and quiet, only the impossible in a masculine 
world. What was she thinking of ? If he could 
only have seen the expression of her eyes as she 
bent over him ! Suppose he should open his and 
look straight up at her ? but no, he had not the 
courage to frighten her again. He transplanted 
her in his mind to other surroundings, her proper 
surroundings by birthright, gave her in abun- 
dance all of which this war had deprived her, 
presented to her assiduous courtiers, not reckless 
soldiers like himself, but men whom peace had 
guided in the lofty sphere of intellectual pursuits. 


He held before her the sweet invitations of youth, 
the consummations of Hfe. He made her smile, 

" Ah !" — he turned his face against the pillow 
— "had that sad face ever laughed? Could any 
woman laugh during a war ? Could any triumph, 
however glorious, atone for battles that gave men 
death, but left the women to live ? This was only 
one; how many, wan and silent as she, were look- 
ing at this sunset — the sunset not of a day, but 
a life ? \Mien it was all over, who was to make 
restitution to them, the women ? Was any cost 
too great to repurchase for them simply the privi- 
lege of hoping again ? What an endless chain of 
accusing thoughts ! What a miserable conviction 
tearing his heart ! If he could get on his knees to 
her, if he could kiss her feet, if he could beg par- 
don in the dust — he, a man for all men, of her, a 
woman for all women. If he could make her his 
country, not to fight, but to work for, it . . ." 

She came to his side again, she bent over him, 
she touched him. 

Impulsive, thoughtless, hot-headed, he opened 
his eyes full, he forgot again the wounded arm. 
With both hands he stayed her frightened start; he 
saw the expression of her eyes bending over him. 

" Can you forgive me .'' It is a heartless, cow- 
ardly trick ! I am not a Yankee ; I am Beau, 
your cousin, the guerilla." 

The door of the smoke-house opened, the es- 



caped soldiers ran like deer between the furrows 
of Uncle John's vegetable garden, where the wav- 
ing corn leaves could screen them ; then out to 
the bank of the bayou — not on the levee, but close 
against the fence — snagging their clothes and 
scratching their faces and hands on the cuckle- 
burs ; Lolotte in front, with a stick in her hand, 
beating the bushes through habit to frighten the 
snakes, calling, directing, animating, in excited 
whispers ; Regina in the rear, urging, pressing, 
sustaining the young soldier lagging behind, but 
painfully striving with stiffened limbs to keep up 
with the pace of his older, more vigorous compan- 
ions. Ahead of them Black Maria was steadily 
keeping the skiff out in the current. The bayou 
narrowed and grew dark as it entered between 
the banks of serried cypress- trees, where night 
had already begun. 

Regina looked hurriedly over her shoulder. 
" Had they found out yet at the house } How 
slowly she ran ! How long it took to get to the 
woods ! Oh, they would have time over and over 
again to finish their dinner and catch them. Per- 
haps at this very moment, as she was thinking of it, 
some forgotten article in the skiff was betraying 
them ! Perhaps a gun might even now be point- 
ing down their path ! Or, now ! the bullet could 
start and the report come too late to warn 

She looked back again and again. 


From the little cottage under the trees the 
curtains fluttered, but no bayonet nor smooth-bore 
was visible. 

She met her companion's face, looking back 
also, but not for guns — for her. " If it had been 
different ! If he had been a visitor, come to stay ; 
days and evenings to be passed together !" The 
thought lifting the sulphurous war-clouds from her 
heart, primitive idyls burst into instantaneous fra- 
grant bloom in it like spring violets. He was not 
only the first soldier in gray she had ever seen, 
but the first young man ; or it seemed so to her. 

Again she looked back. 

" How near they were still to the house ! how 
plainly they could yet be seen ! He could be 
shot straight through the back, the gray jacket 
getting one stain, one bullet-hole, more, the coun- 
try one soldier less. Would they shoot through 
a woman at him ? Would they be able to sepa- 
rate them if she ran close behind him, moving 
this way and that way, exactly as he did .'' If she 
saw them in time she could warn him ; he could 
lie flat down in the grass; then it would be im- 
possible to hit him." 

Increasing and narrowing the space between 
them at the best of each succeeding contradic- 
tory thought, turning her head again and again 
to the house behind her, she lost speed. Lolotte 
and the two men had already entered the forest 
before she reached it. Coming from the fields, 

56 BAYOU l'oMBRE. 

the swamps seemed midnight dark. Catching her 
companion's hand, they groped their way along, 
tripped by the slimy cypress knees that rose like 
evil gnomes to beset and entangle their feet, 
slipping over rolling logs, sinking in stagnant mire, 
noosed by the coils of heavy vines that dropped 
from unseen branches overhead. Invisible wings 
of startled birds flapped above them, the croak- 
ing of frogs ebbed and flowed around them, owls 
shrieked and screamed from side to side of the 
bayou. Lolotte had ceased her beating ; swamp 
serpents are too sluggish to be frightened away. 
In the obscurity, Black Maria could be dimly 
seen turning the skiff to a half-submerged log, 
from which a turtle dropped as if ballasted with 
lead. A giant cypress -tree arrested them; the 
smooth, fluted trunk, ringed with whitish water- 
marks, recording floods far over their heads ; 
where they were scrambling once swam fish and 
serpents. The young soldier turned and faced 
her, the deliverer, whose manoeuvres in the open 
field had not escaped him. 

She had saved him from imprisonment, insult, 
perhaps death — the only heir of a heroic father, 
the only son of a widowed mother ; she had re- 
stored him to a precious heritage of love and 
honor, replaced him in the interrupted ambitious 
career of patriotic duty ; she had exposed her life 
for him — she was beautiful. She stood before 
him, panting, tremulous, ardent, with dumb, open 


red lips, and voluble, passionate eyes, and with a 
long scratch in her white cheek from which the 
blood trickled. She had much to say to him, her 
gray uniformed hero ; but how in one moment 
express four years — four long years — and the last 
long minutes. The words were all there, had been 
rushing to her lips all day ; her lips were parted ; 
but the eager, overcrowded throng were jammed 
on the threshold ; and her heart beat so in her 
ears ! He could not talk ; he could not explain. 
His companions were already in the boat, his ene- 
mies still in gunshot. He bent his face to hers in 
the dim light to learn by heart the features he must 
never forget — closer, closer, learning, knowing 
more and more, with the eager precocity of youth. 

Bellona must have flown disgusted away with 
the wings of an owl,. Columbia might have nod- 
ded her head as knowingly as old Aunt Mary 
could, when the callow hearts, learning and know- 
ing, brought the faces closer and closer together, 
until the lips touched. 

" I shall come again ; I shall come again. Wait 
for me. Surely I shall come again," 

"Yes! Yes!" 

Black Maria pushed the skiff off. " Rowlock ! 
Rowlock !" They were safe and away. 

A vociferous group stood around the empty 
gunnels. Uncle John, with the daring of despera- 
tion, advanced, disarmed as he was, towards them. 


" I-I-I-I don't keer ef you is de-de-de President 
o' de United States hisself, I ain't gwine to 'low no 
such cussin' an' swearin' in de hearin' o' de-de-de 
young ladies. Marse John he-he-he don't 'low it, 
and when Marse John ain't here I-I-I don't 'low it." 

His remonstrance and heroic attitude had very 
little effect, for the loud talk went on, and chiefly 
by ejaculation, imprecation, and self-accusation 
published the whole statement of the case ; under- 
standing which. Uncle John added his voice also: 

" Good Gord A'mighty ! Wh-wh-what's dat you 
say ? Dey — dey — dey Yankees, an' you Cornfed- 
rits ? Well, sir, an' are you Marse Beau — you wid 
your arm hurted ? Go 'long ! You can't fool me ; 
Marse Beau done had more sense en dat. My 
Gord ! an' dey wuz Yankees ? You better cuss — 
cussin's about all you kin do now. Course de 
boat's gone. You'll never ketch up wid 'em in 
Gord's world now. Don't come along arter me 
about it .' 'Tain't my fault. How wuz I to know ? 
You wuz Yankees enough for me. I declar', 
Marse Beau, you ought to be ashamed o' your- 
self ! You wanted to I'arn dem a lesson ! I reck- 
on dey I'arnt you one ! You didn't mean 'em no 
harm ! Humph ! dey've cut dey eye-teeth, dey 
have ! Lord ! Marse Beau, I thought you done 
knowed us better. Did you really think we wuz 
a-gwine to let a passel o' Yankees take us away 
off our own plantation } You must done forgot 
us. We jes cleaned out de house for 'em, we did 


— clo'es, food, tobacco, rum. De young ladies 
'ain't lef a mossel for Marse John. An' — an' — 
an' 'fore de good Gord, my gun ! Done tuck my 
gun away wid 'em ! Wh-wh-wh-what you mean 
by such doin's ? L-l-look here, Marse Beau, I 
don't like dat, nohow ! Wh-wh-what ! you tuck 
my gun and gin it to de Yankees ? Dat's my 
gun ! I done had dat gun twenty-five year an' 
more ! Dog-gone ! Yes, sir, I'll cuss — I'll cuss 
ef I wants to ! I 'ain't got no use for gorillas, 
nohow ! Lem me 'lone, I tell you ! lem me 'lone ! 
Marse John he'll get de law o' dat ! Who's 'spon- 
sible ? Dat's all I want to know — who's 'sponsi- 
ble ? Ef-ef-ef-ef— No, sir ; dar ain't nary boat 
on de place, nor hereabouts. Yes, sir; you kin 
cross de swamp ef you kin find de way. No, sir 
— no, sir; dar ain't no one to show you. I ain't 
gwine to leave de young ladies twell Marse John 
he comes back. Yes, I reckon you kin git to de 
cut-off by to-morrow mornin', ef you ain't shot on 
de way for Yankees, an' ef your company is fool 
enough to wait for you. No, sir, I don't know 
nothin' 'bout nothin' ; you better wait an' arsk 
Marse John. ... My Gord! I'm obleeged to 
laugh ; I can't help it. Dem fool nigger wimen 
a-sittin' on de brink o' de byer, dey clo'es tied up 
in de bedquilts, an' de shotes an' de puUits all 
kilt, a-waitin' for freedom ! I lay dey' 11 git free- 
dom enough to-night when de boys come home. 
Dey git white gentlemen to marry 'em ! Dey'll 


git five hundred apiece. Marse Beau, Gord '11 
punish you for dis— He surely will. I done tole 
Marse John long time ago he oughter sell dat 
brazen nigger Dead-arm Harriet, an' git shet o' 
her. Lord ! Lord ! Lord ! Now you done gone 
to cussin' an' swearin' agin. Don't go tearin' off 
your jackets an' flingin' em at me. We don't 
want 'em ; we buys our clo'es — what we don't 
make. Yes, Marse John '11 be comin' along pret- 
ty soon now. What's your hurry, Marse Beau .-• 
Well, so long, ef you won't stay. He ain't got 
much use for gorillas neither, Marse John hain't." 

The young officer wrote a few hasty words on 
a leaf torn from the pretty Russia-leather note- 
book, and handed it to the old darky. " For 
your Marse John." 

"For Marse John — yes, sir; I'll gin hit to him 
soon 's he comes in." 

They had dejectedly commenced their weary 
tramp up the bayou ; he called him back, and 
lowered his voice confidentially : " Marse Beau, 
when you captured dat transport and stole all 
dem fixin's an' finery, you didn't see no good 
chawin' tobacco layin' round loose, did you? 
Thanky! thanky, child! Now I looks good at 
you, you ain't so much changed sence de times 
Marse John used to wallop you for your tricks. 
Well, good-bye, Marse Beau." 

On the leaf were scrawled the words : 

".All's up ! Lee has surrendered. — Beau." 



>T was in a part of the city once 
truthfully, now conventionally, called 
"back of town," and it had been 
used as an obscure corner in which 
to thrust domestic hearths not cred- 
itable to the respectability assumed in the front 
part of town ; where oil-lamps could be econom- 
ically substituted for gas, and police indifference 
for police protection. 

The long rows of tallow- trees, with here and 
there an oak, shaded an unpaved street and a 
seemingly unbroken continuity of low cottages, 
with heavy green doors and windows and little 
wooden steps jutting out on to the banquette. 
Their homely architectural physiognomies were 
adapted to such an isolated, dimly-lighted locality, 
and were frankly devoid of any beauty or pictu- 
resqueness of expression. But as the banquette, 
wrinkled and corrugated from the roots beneath, 
retarded the steps of the passer-by, faintly as- 
serting individualities might be discerned : de- 
clensions of one -storied degrees of prosperity, 
comparisons of industry and cleanliness, and pre- 


tensions to social precedence inherited from the 
architect of a centnry ago, or acquired, perhaps, 
by the thrift of a present tenant. The steps 
were all scrubbed red with brick, or yellow with 
wild camomile, which, besides gilding, lent them 
a pleasant aromatic fragrance. 

The quiet that reigned told that the street was 
still back of town in all that a corporation sug- 
gests of movement, bustle, and noise. The air 
of desertion which hung about the little closed 
cottages would have been oppressive had it not 
been for the children — a motley crowd, accus- 
ing an " olla podrida " parentage, chattering in 
tongues as varied as their complexions, and rest- 
less with the competing energies of hidden na- 
tionalities in their veins. Dressed with tropical 
disregard of conventionality, they were frank, im- 
pudent, irrepressible ; at all times noisy and unan- 
imous, swooping down the street at any moment 
in eager response to some distant alarm, or tak- 
ing swarming possession of whole rows of steps 
with perfect disregard of any superior proprietary 

The delusive similarity of the blocks would in 
time generate in the passer-by the suspicion of a 
treadmill under foot, did not the sharp point of 
a triangular enclosure furnish a landmark in the 
region by cutting into the very middle of the 
street, parting the hitherto companion banquettes, 
and sending them on at divergent angles in ever- 


increasing separation, until they were finally ar- 
rested at unrecognizable distances apart by the 
banks of the bayou. The fence of this obtruding 
property may have been painted in front on the 
other street, but to its apex it degenerated through 
every stage of shabbiness and neglect. For a 
screen the large square house inside was mostly 
indebted to a hedge of orange-trees, which, raising 
their heads proudly in the sun, illuminated the 
ugly spot with their golden fruit in the winter, 
and sanctified it in the spring with their blossoms. 
The shaded banquettes along the sides of the 
triangle were a constant temptation to the chil- 
dren, alluring them, against experience, into the 
range of the epithets and missiles of the children- 
hating people within. 

" AUez-vous-en !" 

" Pestes de la terre !" 

" Negrillons !" 

"Gamins !" 

" Tits demons !" 

" Enfants du diable !" 

The loss of a knot from one of the boards of 
the fence furnished a providential peep-hole into 
the mysteries of a " menage " from which abnor- 
mal discoveries seemed constantly expected by 
the children, and if persistence of attention could 
have been relied upon, warnings might always 
have been given for timely refuge on the steps of 
the nearest little corner cottage. These offered an 


ideal juvenile place of refuge, where there were 
no brick or camomile scrubbings to rebuke their 
litter, no sudden front -door openings to sweep 
them away in confusion, no front-window admo- 
nitions or imprecations to disturb them, and ab- 
solutely no banquette ordinances to taunt them 
into wilfulness, but instead an upward glance 
through the small opening of the bowed shutters 
showed them the face of " la blanche mamzelle 
la-ye " at her sewing. 

They were too young to appreciate the fact that 
the batten windows were bowed only when they 
were there, or to wonder why they, the children, 
were the only ones who ever saw her ; but they 
did know that her face was whiter, her hair 
straighter and finer, than human comparison for 
them, and so they could not keep their eyes from 
looking for responses from hers, nor their lips 
from smiling invitingly at hers, nor their tongues 
from sallies of wit intended for her ear alone. 
To-day she paid little attention to them. They 
could hear her " Miseres !" of impatience, and the 
vexatious tapping of her foot, though they could 
not see that she was manipulating some gaudy 
woollen material which gave her infinite worry with 
its ungracious, not to say stubborn, opposition to 
a necessity which ordered its stripes to go flounc- 
ing in diagonal procession round and round a skirt. 

" Claire !" called a feeble voice from the back 


She raised her head incredulously. 

" Claire ! Claire Blanche !" 

A shade of disappointment passed over her face. 

" Bonne maman !" 

" Mais, Claire, fillette, where are you ?" 

" I am coming, bonne maman." 

She caught her work together and folded it in 
a cloth before going into the other room. 

" What are you doing, bebe ?" 

" But my work, bonne maman." 

"Ah ! I could not think where you were." 

" I thought it was cooler in the other room." 

"It is very warm in here." 

" You are not going to get up, bonne maman ? 
You have not finished your sleep yet." 

" Have I not slept as long as usual?" 

" No, indeed ; only a few minutes. That was 
the reason I could not think it was you calling." 

" Enfin, it is better for me to get up." 

" But why, bonne maman .-' There is no ne- 
cessity for you to get up earlier to-day than usual." 

"As you say, it is warm here." 

The old lady lay on her bed underneath the 
mosquito bar, the straight folds of her white 
" blouse volante " settled around her thin figure. 
Claire picked up a fan, and putting back the 
bar, commenced to fan her. 

" Chere, bonne maman, try. Maybe you can 
sleep some more." 

The coaxing, caressing voice and the soft mo- 


tions of the fan had a soothing effect, and al- 
though the grandmother repeated, " Yes, decided- 
ly I had better get up," she made no effort to move. 

" The weather is so warm and tiresome," con- 
tinued the girl, suggesting an excuse for lethargy. 

"Yes, as you sa}', it is warm and debilitating." 

" But, just shut your eyes, bonne maman, and 
try to sleep. You have not rested at all." 

" Rest," she said, catching the word. " I do 
not need rest ; I have worked very little to-day — 
in fact, not at all." 

" Oh, but I mean rest from thinking. Mon 
Dieu ! if I thought as much as you, I could not 
keep my eyes open at all." 

The grandmother turned her head on the pil- 
low, and did close her eyes. 

Claire smiled with satisfaction. Her bright 
face showed the reflection of cheerful interpreta- 
tions alone, and her quick eyes, glancing over the 
surface of things, gathered only pleasant sights. 
She was going on tiptoe out of the room. 

"Why do you not bring your work in here, 
Claire, where I am ?" 

" What, not asleep ? Vilaine !" 

" But, my child, how you talk ! Sleep ? when I 
have so much to finish !" 

" Oh, there is plenty of time for that, bonne 
maman. At least stay in bed a little longer." 

" One would suppose that I was the grandchild 
and you the bonne maman." 


Claire brought her work ; not the gaudy stripes, 
but a piece of embroidery, and seated herself at 
some distance from the bed, in the path of a ray 
of light. 

The old lady sighed heavily; her eyes were 
fixed on Claire. 

"But what is the matter, bonne maman?" 

" Oh, nothing, nothing, cherie — only, what makes 
you stoop so, Claire ?" 

" Ah, that ugly habit ! Imbecile !"— slapping 
her forehead — " can't you cure yourself, enfin ? I 
ought to be well tapped for it, as I was at the con- 

She straightened herself up to an uncomfort- 
able degree of rectitude, which lasted as long as 
the remembrance of her grandmother's sigh, and 
she talked as if her needle could only move in 
unison with her tongue. 

" It was funny at the convent how many bad 
habits I had. They seemed to grow on purpose 
to be corrected. And I was so young, too. Bad 
mark for this, en penitence for that, fool's-cap for 
something else, twenty -five lines by heart for 
something else. And all the time, ' Your grand- 
mother never did this,' 'Your mother never did 
that,' ' Ah, if you had seen your tante Stephanie,' 
' Look at your cousin Adelaide.' Ma foi ! the 
first lesson I learned was that I was like no 
member of my family seen before. How I used 
to wish there had been just one lazy bad one 


like me ! Was it that way when you were there, 
bonne maman ?" 

The old lady did not answer, but Claire showed 
no hesitation in summoning her thoughts from 
any pleasanter dallying ground. 

" Hein, bonne maman ?" 

" What, Claire ?" 

" At the convent, was it that way with you ? 
Always scolding you because you were not some 
one else, always punishing you because you were 
what you were ? That was justice ! And then to 
tell me I was lazy and could not learn ! It en- 
rages me every time I think of it. I am sure I 
learned very nearly the whole of the Genie da 
Christiaiiisme in punishment. It was killing. 
Study! When I was thinking all the time about 
something else, straining my ears to listen, just 
to see if I could hear the cannon shooting 'way 
out there in the distance." 

She heard another sigh, and raised her shoul- 
ders with a start. 

" Pardon, bonne maman ! I forget. You will 
see I can cure myself. Oh ! I can do anything I 
want except be pious, as they wanted me to be at 
the convent. Ha ! it was very easy for the Sis- 
ters to say ' Study history !' ' Study geography !' 
and stick La Vie des Saints before me. Saints ! 
It was ' ces diables de I'enfer ' out there shooting 
their cannons that I was thinking of! Books ! I 
hated books, and pen and ink and paper make 


me ill to this day; but I could embroider; that 
didn't prevent listening and thinking. I was only 
pious when the mail came in. When I remember 
those days, mon Dieu Seigneur ! but we were 
frightened then ! Oh, how we loved God and the 
saints then ! and how we used to pray to them, 
fast, fast, fast as we could, before the letters were 
brought around ! Getting a letter meant almost 
just the same thing as killing some one in our 
family. Those were times — eh, bonne maman ?" 

" Bonne maman !" 


" But, bonne maman, you don't listen to me, 
you don't answer me." 

" But, ma petite, I thought you wanted me to 
go to sleep?" 

"Ah, were you going to sleep? And I woke 
you ? What a fool I am !" 

" What were you talking about, my daughter ? 
I will listen now." 

" Ah, no, bonne maman, don't listen to me, I 
am so silly; indeed, I am not worth listening to. 
Try to go to sleep again. To think that I woke 
you, when I wanted you so much to sleep ! I be- 
lieve the Sisters at the convent were right. I 
shall never have any sense — never; only strength. 
Ah, yes ! they told me that often enough, and 
tried to shame me by pointing to the good girls 
— the good, weak girls. Anyhow," shrugging her 
shoulders, "goodness doesn't stand a convent 


and war as well as badness. Ma cliere ! when I 
left there you would have said that a battle had 
been fought in the dormitory, with the guns loaded 
with fevers, and all aimed at the good girls. Only 
the fool's-cap wearers escaped. The little ceme- 
tery was full, full, full, and the graves so even and 
regular, all of one size, like a patchwork quilt 
spread out inside the four fences." 

" Now, Claire, I shall get up." 

" You see, if it had not been for me you would 
have been sleeping; and it is so hot and tiresome 

Her grandmother sat up in bed. 

" Just to give me pleasure, bonne maman, stay 
quiet a moment longer." 

" To give you jDleasure — ah, well, if it gives you 
pleasure !" and she reclined again. 


*' Oh, bonne maman, I forget " — sitting up with 
innocent egoism. 

" Claire, I was thinking I would like to see my 
little green work-table again." 

"Ah, that was what you were thinking, eh .-' I 
thought it was about my shoulders." 

" My little green work-table," the old lady re- 
peated to herself. 

" Which stood in the window of your room, that 
looked on to the gallery, over the orange-trees, 
over the levee, into the river — " 

" To think I should forget it until to-day ! To 


think I could forget it ! — my little green work- 

" But, bonne maman, you have so much to for- 
get !" 

" But that was my ' corbeille de noces,' ordered 
from Gessler, in Paris. A corbeille de noces !" 
talking more to herself than to the girl. " How 
much that means ! I can see the very day, the 
very hour, it came. First, my vexation and dis- 
appointment ; there were tears in my eyes ; it 
was so 'bourgeoise,' a work-table, with nothing 
but scissors and threads and needles, instead of 
orange flowers and lace and fans and sentiment. 
Eh, mon Seigneur ! what ideas I had ! But Aza 
was there ! What a devil Aza was ! impertinent, 
pushing, and perfectly fearless. I was the only 
one who could manage her. They said I had 
spoiled her> but she adored me more than she did 
God, and was more afraid of displeasing me, too. 
She followed me around like a little dog. I never 
could put my hand out, so, without touching 

Claire nodded attention, as her fingers flew 
backward and forward about her work. 

"It seems to me," and the soft feeble voice 
sounded very plaintive — " it seems to me that all 
the bright hopes that used to fly before me, they 
fly behind me now as memories." 

"Well, of course that is natural," the girl an- 
swered cheerfully. " We are two crabs, you and 


I — we walk backward. We couldn't see any- 
thing going on before us, par exemple." 

" But, Claire, I keep forgetting. I must get up 
and finish that embroidery." 

"Oh, just one moment, bonne maman — just 
one moment more." 

" It must be finished and returned this even- 

The needle sped faster and faster, and the 
soothing words fell more and more disconnect- 

"Go and fetch it to me, Claire." 

"Yes, bonne maman." 

" Indeed I feel quite refreshed." 

" Dieu merci !" muttered the girl, and reckless- 
ly added, " Vogue la galere !" 

The grandmother got very slowly out of the 
bed and walked to her rocking-chair, 

" It is in the basket there on the mantel- 

Claire went for the basket, and slipped the roll 
of embroidery she held into it. 

" Here it is, bonne maman." 

"Ah ! mais, this is not my embroidery." 

" Si, it is your embroidery, bonne maman." 

" No, my child, you have made a mistake, and 
put yours in my basket. Look again, and give 
me mine, chere." 

Claire turned her head away, that her face 
might not discredit her voluble tongue. 


" But I tell you that is your embroidery, bonne 

" My embroidery ! Claire, how can you say so ? 
Come and convince yourself. See ! this is all 
done ; and mine — there was a good piece to do 

" But—" 

" A — h ! I see ! Claire, it is you who have fin- 
ished it for me." 

" Eh, why not ? I had already finished mine, 
and I had nothing to do — absolutely nothing. 
Was I to sit still and hold my hands — hein ? Oh, 
you need not examine the stitches ! I know they 
are not so fine, nor so smooth, nor so regular as 
yours, but they are good enough for that old 
' chouette ' Varon all the same, and — " 

The grandmother jumped violently at a sud- 
den knock at the door. 

" Mais, mon Dieu ! what is that ?" 

"A la bonne heure !" whispered Claire to her- 
self. " It is Betsie, bonne maman ; I will see what 
she wants." 

"Ah, that Betsie! she is so badly raised. She 
knocks at the door as if she were a Suisse. Now, 
Aza — " 

Claire had already left the room, and closed 
the door behind her. 

" Mamzelle," said Betsy, standing on the step, 
"there's that nigger out there come for her 


" Hush, Betsie ! Bonne maman is awake," 

" There's some frolic going on to-night, and 
she has set her heart on wearing her new 

" But it is not finished." 

"That's bad." 

" I was still sewing on it when bonne maman 

" I suspicioned you hadn't done it, and I tried 
my best to send her away; but. Lord! such a 
contrairy, obstreperous nigger like that !" 

" If bonne maman had only slept a little while 

" You couldn't baste it up any sort of fashion, 
right off, and let her go ?" 

" But how can I, Betsie ? Bonne maman — " 

" Couldn't you just slip out in the kitchen with 
it ? You could say I wanted you to look after 
the soup while I go in the street a minute." 

" Ha ! you think bonne maman would not go 
herself to see to it?" 

"That's so ; the madam would come right out 
there herself. But that gal is so owdacious and 
high-minded; she has been a-jawin' out there for 
an hour constant, and I've been a-answering her 
just as fair as I could, 'cause I didn't want no 
fuss. I never seen anything like her brazenness 
all the days of my life. A-driving of white folks 
like they was niggers. . . . Couldn't you say I 
wanted you to cut a josie for me .'"' 



" She would tell me to bring it to her to cut. 
Bonne maman is not so easy to fool, Betsie." 

The bright sunlight showed lines of weariness 
and dejection in the girl's face which the darkness 
of the bedchamber had concealed. She leaned 
back against the closed doors and clasped her 
hands over her head to shelter her eyes. 

" Well, I don't know. If she was not such a loud- 
mouthed, laz}^, good-for-nothing, trolloping thing. 
I wish we could make an end of her !" — turning to 
go. " Let me see what I can do with her again." 

"Ask her to wait just a Uttle while longer; 
perhaps — " 

"Wait! Lord bless you! she 'ain't got any 
idea of going. Gabriel hisself couldn't drag her 
away for the judgment-day withouten that gownd. 
I ain't afeard of her going; I'm afeard she'll 
holler so loud the madam will hear her." 

Claire peeped anxiously through the door be- 
fore entering. It was all still. She walked in 
on tiptoe. Her grandmother sat with her eyes 
closed, the embroidery in her hand. 

" Ah, bonne chance !" — her face was sanguine 
and gay again — " bonne maman has gone to sleep 
at last." 

She hastily got her gaudy task of sewing, and 
followed Betsy across the yard. 

The little kitchen basked in the double heat 
of sun and furnace, and was overcrowded with 


its assemblage of three. The only chair in the 
room was occupied by the colored votary of 
fashion, whose monotonous argument rolled on 
to an unresponsive audience. 

" I was a-telling this lady here," she nodded to 
Claire, and pointed to Betsy — " I was a-telling 
her I wanted my frock for to-night, for that 
moonlight picnic is a-coming off to-night at last. 
You 'ain't heerd tell of it? Me and my society 
gives it, and all the members is going to go, and 
they is bound to go. I laid off yesterday to 
come and tell you, but I didn't have time ; and 
it appears to me a week's long enough to make 
a frock, anyhow ; and if it wasn't, you should 
have told me so fair and square before you 
ever put a needle into it. The moonlight pic- 
nic's done been put off long enough, the Lord 
knows ! It did seem to me as how we never would 
be able to get it up. Something was always 
a-happening against it. Every blessed time we 
got all the money we'd look in the box, and, sure 
enovigh, there wouldn't be enough yet, and then 
it would be put off till another collection. And 
if it hadn't been for Sister Johnson's funeral last 
night it wouldn't come off now. But it's coming 
off this time, sure; 'cause if it had a-come off 
when we first started it, Sister Johnson herself 
could have gone to it; yes, indeed, as sure as you 
are standing there; and if it hadn't been for hold- 
ing her funeral last night I don't believe we ever 



would have got it up. It was a-long past mid- 
night when they come to me for my money, 'cause 
I never would have given it to 'em before; and 
after they had done got all the money, they said 
as how they had better wait for the moon; but 
the sisters, they just said, ' No, sir; you give that 
there moonlight picnic to-night, moon or no 
moon, 'cause it's a heap easier to give a moon- 
light picnic without a moon than without the 
money.' As I was a-telling this lady here, and 
if you had a-told me last week you wasn't a-going 
to give me that there frock there for the moon- 
light picnic, I could ha' given it to somebody else. 
Lord knows there's white people enough to do 
sewing, and glad to get it; and you knows your- 
self, after I done paid my money last night at 
Sister Johnson's funeral for a moonlight picnic, 
I'm bound to go, and I'm bound to wear a new 
frock if I've got one." 

" Lord, child ! don't you jaw so much. Don't 
you see the mamzelle's 'most done it ? Who says 
you ain't gwine to git it done in time ?" 

"• She's bound to git it done in time, if I stays 
here a week — she's bound to git it done in time." 

It lay under Claire's busy hands on the table 
like a heap of fresh glowing vegetables. The 
young negress picked up the waist. 

"And I hope to gracious you 'ain't made the 
josie too tight ! I busts my josies awful. The 
color is real stylish, though. You 'ain't got a col- 


lar or some sort of neck fixin' you could sell me, 
have you? I could pay you cash down for it," 
rummaging in the privacy of her bosom; "you 
can see for yourself," untying the knot in a hand- 
kerchief. " Lord knows I had trouble enough 
getting this money after I had done worked for 
it! I had to jaw that white woman what owed it 
to me two hours incessant before she had the 
grace to pay me. But I was bound to get it for 
the moonlight picnic, and I wasn't going to wash 
and iron one day longer, neither, for anybody, 
and I told her so. Goodness knows, I ain't 
obliged to work for her nohow; and she flung it 
to me, and told me for God's sake to hush talk- 
ing, and clear out and never let her lay eyes on 
me no more, and I ain't going to, neither; and if 
you've got any sort of collar or neck fixin' you 
could sell me cheap, I'd pay you cash down for 

" Hein, Betsie?" asked Claire, putting at last 
the finishing stitches in her work. 

Betsy answered in a quick whisper, " Ef you 
have got some sort of little old thing you 'ain't 
got any use for, you know the money '11 come in 
mighty handy." 

Claire quit the kitchen, hurried across the little 
yard, and went into the room with the same pre- 
cautions as before. Her fingers trembled as she 
opened the door of the armoire so near the sleep- 
ing grandmother, and she pulled from an old 


pasteboard box the first piece of lace that met 
her eye — a large antique collar of Valenciennes, 
and like a thief she crept softly away with it. 

"Will this do, Betsie?" she asked, entering the 

The damage done its marketable value by the 
deep yellow color was painfully evident to both. 

" How much you want to give for it ?" asked 
Betsy of the customer. 

"Well, I can't give you more'n I've got. I'm 
willing to give you all I have got, and that is the 
best I can do. Here's the six bits for the making 
of the frock, fair and square as she agreed on, 
out of this dollar, and here's two bits besides, 
and that's the last cent I've got in this world, as 
the Lord hears me speak; and I wouldn't have 
had that two bits there if I hadn't been let off 
last night from giving it to the collection, 'cause 
they didn't know I had it; and they wouldn't 'a' 
come to me, nohow, if they hadn't found out I'd 
been washing by the week — " 

" Six bits outen the dollar and two bits besides. 
How much does that make altogether ?" asked 
Betsy of Claire. 

"And that dollar there was what the white 
woman gave me." 

" I will take it, Betsie, I will take it," said 
Claire, eagerly. " I assure you it is quite suffi- 
cient," putting the piece of lace into the bundle 
she was making 


" Well, so long !" The negro girl loitered on 
the door -sill. "I'm just a-willing to bet, now, 
that that moonlight picnic is put off again. I mis- 
trusted them brothers when they come a-knock- 
ing me up last night in the middle of the night. 
I don't believe in moonlight picnics, nohow, 
and — 

She walked, talking, away. 

"Eh, Betsie?" exclaimed Claire. "That is 
plenty of money, hein ? But if bonne maman 
finds out!" 

The old lady did not open her eyes for some 
time after Claire returned to the chamber, and 
then she resumed, as if in continuation of her 
thoughts : " It is curious I never thought of my 
little work-table until to-day. My 'corbeille de 
noces.' And it was Aza the first who found it 
out — Aza." She shook her head meditatively 
as she repeated the name. " She was always 
pushing herself forward where I was. They 
told me I spoiled her ; perhaps so. She was 
more like a doll to me than a human being. 
Her mother gave her to me, when she was only 
a day old, in my arms. It felt so grand to have 
a live doll, just as I was beginning to tire of 
the others. What plans I made for her ! En- 
fin ! it was the will of God. While I was stand- 
ing, with tears in my eyes, looking at the needles 
and thread, Aza was feeling the green bag under- 
neath. Do you remember the green bag, Claire ?" 


" Do I remember it, bonne maman? But sure- 
ly !" 

" She gave the drawer one pull, and, voila ! it 
was all before me." 

The grandmother's bluish hands, with their 
dark, knotted, angry veins, rubbed nervously up 
and down the arms of her chair, and she made 
frequent pauses by leaning back and closing her 
eyes, breathing heavily. 

" Ma foi, if Aza had waited, she would not 
have had to thank me for her freedom. ' Ma 
fille,' I used to tell her, ' it is not only the dif- 
ference in our skin, but the difference in our 
nature.' She would have died for me — ah, yes ! 
— but she could not be good for me. Claire, I 
wish I could see my little work-table again." 
Her voice, usually so trained, was surprisingly 
plaintive to-day. " You see, so much would come 
back to me if I could see my little table. I 
think sometimes, mon enfant, that the loss of our 
souvenirs is the worst loss of all for us women. 
^Vith them we never forget. When one is old, 
things get so far away. When we are young, we 
are like dogs : v/e hide away out of our provision 
of the present, for the future, scraps of ribbon, 
lace, or a glove — no matter what — and it is very 
hard when, old and hungry, we come to the hid- 
ing-place and find them all gone. Of course it is 
all sentiment; but we women, going through so 
much, we like to remember when everything hap- 


pened for the first time — one's first copy-book, 
one's first communion, one's first ball, and when 
one gets married, and one's first child. Ah, mon 
Dieu ! one can get reconciled to changes in life, 
but one cannot get reconciled to changes in one's 
self. Even when our souvenirs are crumbling to 
dust they are fresher than we women are at the 
end. Mon enfant, I advise you, give up every- 
thing in life except your souvenirs; keep them 
for your sentiments to gnaw on, as one might say, 
when you get old." 

" Eh, grand'mere, souvenirs of what ? Of the 
war? of the convent? Merci ! I am in no dan- 
ger of forgetting them. Every piece of bread I 
eat reminds me how hungry I used to be there, 

The grandmother had taken another leave of 
absence of mind, and Claire, having now no ul- 
terior motive for loquacity, was silent also. 

The closed eyes, however, were not, had not 
been, sleeping ; on the contrary, under their pallid 
lids they were looking with tense vision, in vague 
fear of an indeterminate something slowly evolv- 
ing out of misty uncertainty into a fatal convic- 

That the conviction had not come to her before 
was owing to the coercive strength of an inflexible 
will ; that it came to her to-day with the irrefutable 
accumulated evidence hitherto suppressed or ig- 
nored, did not astonish, only awed, her. Women 


live SO close to nature, they are guided from initia- 
tion to initiation in life by signals and warnings 
— divine, they call them — which they, and only 
they, can see. There can be no question with 
them of rebellion, no refusing of the credentials 
of the angels of the twilight who still knock at 
their doors, the bearers of God's commands, mes- 
sengers of life or messengers of death. 

She was failing — failing in physical, failing in 
mental, strength. The child Claire was manag- 
ing her, doing her work for her surreptitiously. 
It was time for her to prepare for the future; she 
would do it, but why would the past obtrude upon 
her, turning its corpse lights into every nook and 
cranny of her memory? Regrets were useless; 
now that death was so near, but why would they 
come, sowing discord, corroding with tardy in- 
decision the supreme decisions of her life, ar- 
raigning, from the vantage-ground of the present, 
cherished feats of spent heroism, testing the 
metal of her approaching martyr's crown ? 

"This, then, was to be the end of a life conduct- 
ed on principles drawn from heroic inspirations of 
other times. The principles were the same, but 
human nature had changed since women's hearts 
were strong enough not to break over bullet 
wounds, sabre cuts, and horse-hoof mutilations, 
when women's hands were large enough to grasp 
and hold the man-abandoned tiller of the house- 
hold. It had all gone wrong." The old lady 


spread her handkerchief over her eyes. The 
closed Hds could not shut in all the tears. " Yes, 
it had all gone wrong somehow. The battle 
turned out a defeat, not a victory ; the son came 
back on his shield, not with it." And she ? She 
might perhaps have done better. Death would 
now have been easier for her if the times and she 
had been different in the past. Had it not been 
for overflows and disasters and disappointments, 
for failure of crops and epidemics of disease, for 
the feeding of so many useless and infirm depend- 
ents, she too might have been a successful plan- 
tation manager. As it was, when her commission- 
merchant came to her with a statement, she 
frankly and firmly acknowledged that she could 
not rightfully claim an acre of her possessions. 
They came in a royal grant ; they went in a royal 
cause. There were law quibbles ; but was she 
one to lose a creed to grovel for coppers ? She 
might have gone to France, as it was supposed 
she had done ; and desert the country for which 
her only son had died ? But after the war she 
was less than ever a Frenchwoman, more than 
ever an American. At bay, every nerve tingling 
with haughty defiance at the taunts and jeers of 
despising conquerors, every heart-throb beating 
accusations of womanly weakness and grief, what 
more effective answer to the challengers of her 
blood and country, what nobler one to herself, 
than bravely to assume the penalty she had 


dared ? As the men had fought, let the women 
suffer against overpowering odds. So she left 
the beautiful country, her plantation, her home, 
her souvenirs of youth and happiness, and came 
to the detested city, sought out this little cabin 
left vacant by the death of an old slave, and with 
Claire commenced that life to which she had con- 
vinced herself she was committed by fate and by 
principle. It was an extreme of resolution to 
meet an extreme of disaster. Ameliorations of 
her lot were intolerable even in thought. She 
had made her destitution complete by renouncing 
even friends, relations, social amenities, with her 
humble neighbors. 

Thus she had lived her retaliation against fate 
— there was no doubt about that now — thorough- 
ly, eifectively, and death was upon her. But 
Claire? The handkerchief could not hide the 
convulsive movement of her bosom as she rec- 
ognized now the short range of heroic vision. 

The figure of her pale, cheerful, brave, toiling 
granddaughter came before her with the unearthly 
vividness of those visions which in stormy nights 
bring women their dead. The agony she had 
felt in abandoning her children to the isolation 
and ugliness of the tomb resuscitated poignantly 
at the abandonment of this her last child to life. 

What tomb could be lonelier or uglier than 
this little cabin would be to Claire when she, the 
grandmother, was dead ? 


Would the patriotic death of the girl's father, 
would the martyrdom of her mother, would a 
proud disdain of law quibbles, would the renun- 
ciation of friends and the defiance of enemies, 
alleviate her affliction then, or solace her in her 
youthful, unaided life-struggle,in those conditions 
for which ancestral glories, refinements, and lux- 
uries had but poorly equipped her ? Could, in 
fact, their enemies have prepared an extremity of 
suffering beyond that to which Claire was pre- 
destined by her own grandmother ? 

The sun went down on the little back street 
earlier than elsewhere on account of the huge old 
square house blocking up the west. The win- 
dows and doors unclosed as its rays withdrew, 
and the hidden community finished the day's 
task in the publicity of the front steps, until twi- 
light released them to indulge in the relaxation 
of neighborly gossip — all except the corner cot- 
tage, which maintained its distrustful reserve even 
through the gentle, winning shades of evening. 

When others went in front to greet each other 
with the commonplaces of human interdepend- 
ence, Claire and her grandmother went back 
into the contracted area between the house and 
kitchen, and expended their tendernesses on the 
mendicant groups of potted plants that formed 
their garden. The old lady walked this even- 
ing from shrub to shrub, laying her gentle, with- 


ered hands with maternal expertness amid the 
gieen leaves, straightening distorted branches, and 
searching out diseased spots. Her own heart felt 
bruised and sore from suppressed emotion, and 
craved the faint fragrance, which, it seemed to her, 
her plants had never yielded so willingly or so 
abundantly. Did they understand all, and sym- 
pathize with her ? The tears came into her eyes 
again, but Claire had gone to take the embroidery 
home, so there was no need to hide them. 

The brilliant sunset sky burned overhead in 
deep ingulfing masses, reaching clown to the 
pointed roof of the cottage — the despised roof 
whose shelter she had sought as the deepest in- 
sult she could inflict upon the world. The old, 
worn, menial house ! it also looked kindly, pro- 
tectingly, at her, as if it also had penetrated her 
secret — the last secret of her life. An old, old 
sentiment thrilled in her heart as she looked 
through her tears at it for the first time as at a 
home. " Ah, mon Dieu," she thought, " every- 
thing seems to know and feel for me, just as it 
used to know and feel when I carried other se- 
crets in my breast !" The youthful, timid falter- 
ing came over her once more, the virgin shudder 
before unknown mysteries, the same old girlish 
need of help and encouragement. But she over- 
came the expression of her face as she heard the 
key turn in the lock of the little back gate behind 
the cistern. Claire entered boisterously, followed 


by Betsy with a bundle. She tossed off her hat 
with its ugly veil of blue barege. 

" Oh, bonne maman ! Such a delicious walk ! 
If I only had embroidery to take home every 
evening ! And the old ' Varon ' could not have 
been more amiable. Ah, it's so good to go out 
on the street !" 

She stretched her arms over her head, tighten- 
ing the faded waist around her swelling breast as 
she looked up in the brilliant sunset sky above. 

" Mon Dieu ! but it's all beautiful. I wish I 
could walk up there in all that pink and blue and 
gold ; walk deeper and deeper in it, until it came 
up all around and over me !" 

She drew a long, quivering breath. 

" Do you smell the night jasmine, bonne ma- 
man ? I do not know how it is with you, but it 
is as if it came thousands and thousands of miles 
just to me and no one else, and it makes me feel 
faint with its sweetness." 

She threw her arms around her grandmother 
and embraced her impulsively. 

"You see, it is so good to go on the street, 
bonne maman. It makes one feel so gay, so 
fresh, so strong. Ah, you ought to go some- 
times with me, just to see all the people. How 
many people there must be in the world ! And I 
know only three — you, Betsie, and old Varon. 
But I am glad they are there all the same, even if 
I do not know them." 



A loud, coarse, passionate waltz seemed to fall 
in rhythmic links over the glass-protected brick 
wall. She released her grandmother and danced 
round and round, as if caught in its melodious 
wheels, until it left her panting and glowing. 

" When I hear music like that, bonne maman, 
it is as if my blood would come out of my veins 
and dance right there before me. Sometimes in 
the night I hear it ; I think at first I'm dreaming, 
but then I wake and listen to it until I stop my 
ears and hold myself still, for, oh, bonne maman ! 
I want so much to get up and follow it, out, out, 
wherever it is, until I come to the place where 
it begins fresh and sweet and clear from the 
piano, and then dance, dance, dance, until I can- 
not dance one step more !" 

The words fell in unguarded fervor, and her 
eyes began to burn with feverish brightness. Bet- 
sy plucked at her dress. 

" Mamzelle !" 

" Sometimes I wonder whether it is in the music 
or in me — " 

" Mamzelle ! Mamzelle !" 

" Whether it is in me alone or in everybody — " 

" Mamzelle Claire, just one word !" 

" Decidedly that Betsie is very badly raised," 
remarked bonne maman, in an undertone. 

" When I smell the night jasmine I feel it a 
little, and when I look up in the sky like a while 
ago ; but it's never so strong as when I hear mu- 



sic. Oh, bonne maman, can't you give me some- 
thing to make me stop feeling this way — to make 
that music let me alone ?" 

" Mamzelle !" — the negro excitedly placed her 
hand on Claire's arm to enforce attention. 

" If Aza could see that !" The old lady turned 
away in disgust. 

" Mamzelle ! I can't stand by and see you 
dancing and singing to that music you hear over 
there, and hear you talk about getting up in the 
night and following it." The old black woman's 
voice trembled, and her fingers tightened convul- 
sively over the slim white arm. " I don't tell 
the madam, 'cause it's no use bothering her ; but, 
mamzelle, as sure as God hears me now, them 
niggers over there don't play no music excepting 
for devils to dance by, and that piano don't talk 
nothing fittin' a young white lady to listen to." 

" Eh ? What do you mean ?" 

" Mamzelle — " 

" Does that hurt the music who plays it ? Do 
you think I want to dance to it, to listen to it ?" 
She pushed Betsy's hand off, with her fingers 
grown clammy ; her cheeks were crimson, and her 
lips blushed at the strange maturity of expression 
so new to them. 

" Did I say I was going to get up at night and 
follow it .■* Did I say I was going on the street 
every evening ? Did I say I would rush up to the 
people to feel them clasp my hands only once? 



I only" — and her voice came in a sob — "I only 
said I wanted to." 

The music came now lower and sweeter. She 
stopped her ears. " There ! that is what I must 
do — eh .'' Why doesn't it stop talking to me ?" 

"But, mamzelle, they is — '' 

" It doesn't cost anything," she interrupted, 
furiously — " it doesn't cost anything to listen to 
music, to know people. I don't have to work for 
it, like bread and meat ; and, grand Dieu, how 
much better it is !'' 

Two tears rolled from her hot eyes ; she paused 
in startled awe and carried her hands up to 

" Claire ! Claire Blanche ! you had better come 
in, child." 

" Yes, bonne maman," 

Outside, in the street, the steps filled up with 
white - sacqued women. The men tilted their 
chairs back against the trees and the walls of 
their houses and smoked their cigarettes. The 
children — and this street could have supplied a 
city with children — raced from corner to corner 
to dance out the sample tunes of passing organ- 
grinders. The conversation flowed in an easy 
murmuring tide from group to group, soared over 
every now and then by a dominant cry in pursuit 
of some refractory fugitive. 

" You Var — iste !" 

" A — na— to — le !" 



" Ga cette Marie Ik bas !" 

"Jo — seph — ine!" 

" Josephine, to maman 'peler toi !" 

" 'Polite ! tu veux pas finir ?" 

The lamplighter threaded his way among the 
chairs, scoring off a dim record of his passage up 
among the green leaves of the trees. As the 
darkness settled over the bushy tops of the or- 
ange hedge, blotting the vague outlines of the 
screened house, prodigal fragments of merriment 
seemed to be thrown in scornful carelessness 
down the street — dance music with its impetuous 
accelerations, overtures of song and chorus, break- 
ing off in loud laughter and the tread of dancing 

" They are gay over there this evening." 

" When one is like that — " 

The women united their heads for female com- 
ment; but the men, their cigarettes spangling the 
gloom, listened in silence, casting secret, wistful 
glances in the direction of the occult merry- 

" They won't sleep much over there to-night," 
said one, pointing to the corner cottage. 

" As much as any Saturday night," was an- 
swered, with a shrug. 

It was long before day when Betsy, with mi- 
nute particularity, closed the little gate behind 
her, and started out with her stick in her hand 



and her sack over her shoulder. She belonged 
to that division of humanity who seek their daily 
food in the daily refuse of others. She was a rag- 
picker — a gleaner in the nocturnal fields of a 
great city. Her harvests were not beautiful nor 
savory ; but compensations in the shape of free- 
dom from competition, weather influences, and a 
stable market are not to be despised, particularly 
by one for whom the darkness has no terrors, the 
loneliness no trepidations. She had contracted 
a stoop in her shoulders from so much bending 
over barrels and buckets and tubs, and peering 
through dim light into the slimy bottoms of mud- 
dy gutters, so that her face seldom met the glance 
of the passing world, in whose litter it was or- 
dained she should seek her food ; but when she 
did look up, there was seen no reflection of cor- 
ruption or filth in her small clear black eyes ; no 
grovelling purposes conceived in grovelling pur- 
suits. Although dressed in a picked-up, motley 
livery, thrown off from the shoulders, perhaps, of 
vice, sin, or crime, the audible thought which fell 
mechanically from her lips as she plied her trade 
carried the conviction that her harlequinade was 
one of costume only. The old creature's twilight 
meanderings had taught her much of life, and 
while she knew little of the gifts of civilization, 
she had not many of its banes to find out, hav- 
ing had more experience with vice than with 
virtue, which with purity and goodness dwelt a 


long way back in her nnemory, or a long way for- 
ward in Biblical promise. 

The repertoire of her monologues was not large 
or varied ; wherever they ended, they generally 
began with an early morning like this, "nigh on 
to three years ago," when, going forth to pick 
rags, she found a mistress, and in lieu of daily 
bread gained daily bondage. She was turning 
over the contents of a very destitute box indeed 
that morning when a gate behind her suddenly 
opened, and a young white girl appeared. 

" A young white girl in this here quadroon fau- 
bourg ! My Lord ! what does this mean ?" her 
cultivated suspicions prompted her to exclaim. 

But the young girl, frankly, in the confidence 
of innocent childhood, said, with a polite propi- 
tiating smile, in stiff, unpractised English : 

" I hear you every morning ; I attended for 
you this morning; I want that you direct me the 
way of the market." 

" You git up this time o' day to ask me the 
way to the market ?" 

" Yes, for my grandmother yet sleeps. I wish 
to go there before she wakes herself." 

" Honey, 'ain't you got nobody to go for you ?" 

" No, nobody now, for — " 

" And what could a nigger do ?" muttered Betsy, 
in self-extenuation — " more inspecially a Baptist, 
a fresh-water Baptist and a cold-water Baptist, 
and a hanger-on of the Cross?" 



It was the chance that Hnks together husband 
and wife, that determines the fall of a dynasty, 
or directs the feet of the outcast to a loving 

Circumstances never permitted the childish ap- 
peal for assistance to cease, and an unselfish, ten- 
der heart never permitted it to meet with disap- 
pointment. It was three years now since that 
morning, but the sun, measuring their horizon 
hour by hour, had never shown on a moment of 
distrust in either to their simple confidence, or 
of disloyalty to the pious obligation of serving, 
by fair means or foul, the proud old lady glory- 
ing in her lofty ideas of self-support. 

" I can see the end," Betsy told herself, fishing 
around in a pestiferous heap, " but I can't see 
after the end. The old madam's a-failing ; I seen 
she was a-failing the first day I laid eyes on her ; 
and the young mamzelle is a-growing-and a-ripen- 
ing and beginning to notice things woman-like. 
The old madam, she don't suspicion nothing, nor 
the young mamzelle neither. The end's a-com- 
ing, and it's bound to come. The laughing and 
the singing and the working all day and half the 
night ain't a-going to put it off, neither; and it's 
a crucifying world, anyhow." 

The old lady that morning was also trying to 
look beyond the end, and was seeing Claire grow- 
ing up instead of remaining forever a child — 
growing up in spite of tragedy, starvation, impris- 



onment, inta beauty, gayety, joyousness ; craving 
sympathy, companionship, mental food ; throwing 
out woman tendrils in all directions ; cut off by 
short-sighted precautions from friends, from re- 
lations, even from certification of her own iden- 
tity; alone, literally alone, but for the homely 
friend picked up out of the street. She had sent 
Claire to church, for the first time in her life, by 
herself that morning in order to carry out the 
one project that had come to her in her agony. 
She called Betsy to the side of her rocking-chair. 

" Betsie, you approach me." 

Her English, like most of her youthful posses- 
sions, was hers yet only by an effort of memory. 
She spoke very slowly, reconnoitring for equiva- 
lents for her agitated French thoughts. 

" Betsie, it must we all die." 

" Lord ! old miss." 

"Betsie, it* must you die, it must me die, but 
more maybe me than you." 

"Yes, ma'am." 

" Betsie, when it comes we die, we look for 
friends — hein ?" 

" I reckon so, old miss." 

" Betsie, when it comes I die, me, I look for 
friends, what see I ? Mademoiselle Claire and 
you. You and Claire, nobody more — eh, Bet- 

" Yes, ma'am." 

" Betsie, all this time I have been fool ; but I 



be fool no more. I not work for myself ; no, 
Claire, she work for me ; you, you \vork for me ; 
but me, I not work for myself. Oh ! I think so, I 
work for myself, but no. Now, I know, me. jNIy 
eyes, they have been shut, but now they see 

There were tears of mortification in the proud 
old ej^es, whose first coquettish scintillations lay 
so deep buried under the grief-drifts of a lifetime. 

" Since a long time I work not. Claire Blanche, 
she make my ' broderie ' for me." 

" Please, old miss, don't you go and get mad 
with the mamzelle for that !" 

" Me, I do nothing more ; for why ? I die. 
Since two years I die. I do not know it before ; 
but I know it now, well, well. Betsie, you come 
close, close." The negress could not sit ; stand- 
ing, her face was too high up. She knelt down 
by the chair. 

" Betsie, I very sick ; I die to-day or to-morrow." 

" Not so bad as that, old miss." 

" To-day, to-morrow, or soon. 1 know not when, 
but soon." 

" Can't you take something, old miss ?" 

" No, Betsie. I do not need medicaments ; it 
is death what I need. Die, Betsie, that is some- 
thing terrible ; no, not for the agonizing, but for 
the others. It lasts long sometimes — hein,Betsie?" 

" God knows, ma'am." 

" Betsie, when it comes I die, you stand here, 


SO, close ; Claire, she stand there " — pointing to 
the next room. "You here, she there; then she 
not see." 

Her voice, obedient to the strong will, was 
clear, but at times a weakening tone from the 
heart marred its firmness, and turned the com- 
mand into a petition. 

" I understand, old miss." 

" Betsie, in my life I have seen much die. It 
did me nothing. For why ? I was happy. I 
have hold the hand ; I have made the prayer. 
But I had much family still. Betsie, if it comes I 
die, like you and me we have seen some die — 
Betsie, ma bonne femme Betsie, you will not let 
ma petite Claire see. Betsie, swear me that. My 
good God ! Betsie, you think she ever laugh like 
last night when she see me, her bonne maman, 
die ? Betsie, swear me that." 

"I swear you that on the Bible, old miss." 

"Betsie, you will say her nothing — nothing. 
God, He will tell her — oh, He will tell her in 
time. You say I strong ; you say I well — hein, 
Betsie ?" 

" Yes, ma'am." 

" That is all — that is all for the moment." 

" There's something else, old miss, you've done 
forgot," began the negro woman, still on her 
knees, her short, thick eyelashes crystallized with 
tears, a surpassing pleading in her voice. " Old 
miss, ain't you gwine to send for none of your 


folks — none of your friends ? Old miss, you heerd 
that child out there last night just a-yearning for 
some folks and friends. Old miss, let me go out 
and find 'em for you. I will search this town 
through from end to end, but I'll find 'em for 
you, old miss. For God's sake, old miss, don't 
leave that child here with only one poor old nig- 
ger for her friend! Old miss" — putting her 
eager lips close to the bleached, withered ear — 
" old miss, they is all out there ; the earth is full 
of friends, old miss. Just let me go for 'em." 

The bonne maman reached out her hand and 
laid it on Betsy's head -handkerchief. "You 
have reason, Betsie — you have more reason than 
me. You are one good woman, and I ask the 
good God to bless you. For me and for my 
grandchild. I do not know to talk it, Betsie, 
but " — she drew the black face to her and 
pressed her lips on the forehead — " that is what 
I would say, Betsie." 

" Old miss, you will send for your folks ?" 

"Yes, Betsie, to-morrow. Betsie," she called 
again, as the woman was leaving the room, " you 
will tell Mademoiselle Claire nothing — nothing; 
it will come to her soon enough — eh ?" 

" 'Fore God in heaven I promise you that, old 

But she was never strong enough to send the 
summons ; the angel had delayed too long on the 
road with his warning. 


The first kisses of the spring sun bring out the 
orange blossoms, and the first movements of the 
spring breeze loosen them with gentle frolickings 
from their stems, to carry the sweet fragrant be- 
trayal of their wantonness round to all the open 
windows of the city. The children, with their 
quick divinations, have the news of the blossom- 
ing betimes, and they muster in full force on the 
banquettes under the trees, intrepidly braving for 
the nonce the insulting volleys of their ambushed 
foes. Before the dust of the street could pollute 
the flowers in their abasement, before the sun 
had time to wither their unsheltered freshness, 
deft little black, brown, and yellow fingers had 
heaped them in high-drav/n skirts, old hats, scraps 
of pottery, rag, or paper, to garner them, not on 
their favorite steps, but in a cache selected for 
temporary use. For on the silent green doors 
they loved Death had affixed his standard, and 
the long black crape floating with majestic so- 
lemnity in the sweet air frightened them away. 
The little cabin, always so dark, so quiet, so 
unobtrusive, thrilled the early openers of the win- 
dows about with the unexpected sign of its stig- 
mata. Sleep had lulled them all into uncon- 
scious unhelpfulness, and daylight wakened them 
to accusing repentance. 

" La pauvre vieille madame 1^-ye, morte pen- 
dant la nuit." 

" Ah, misericorde !" 


"Si je I'avais su." 


It was Sunday, the church bells were calling 
them all to mass (all except one — one who they 
remembered had always gone to the earliest 
mass), slipping along the street masked in veils. 
It is an old-fashioned Creole city, with a pompous 
funereal etiquette, where no dispensation is sought 
or given for the visit commanded by the crape 
scarf. Death himself had unlatched the reserved 
green doors, and was host to-day. And where 
Death receives, the house is free to all the " blan- 
chisseuse en fin," the " coiffeuse," the " garde 
malade," the little hunchback who kept the 
"rabais," the passers-by to and from mass, the 
market-woman with her basket, the paper-boy 
with his papers — all entered the little chamber, if 
but for a moment, to say a little prayer, or bow in 
respect to the conqueror and the conquered. The 
old aristocrat lay in her cofifin in the bare, un- 
furnished room, where she had lived with her 
poverty, her pride, and her griefs, looking up 
through her mutilations of age and infirmity, 
through her wrinkles, discolorations, and the stony 
glaze of death, with the patient resignation of a 
marble statue looking up through the turbidities 
of a sluggish stream, while the eyes she had so 
carefully shunned in life gazed their fill of her. 

The hour of noon approached, the siesta hour 
of the neighborhood. 


A Iarge,heavy-limbed woman dressed with showy 
elegance moved slowly down the street, and stop- 
ped for a moment before the door, while her eyes 
with languid curiosity measured the length and 
texture of the black scarf. Past middle age, but 
not past the luxuriant maturity of her prime, she 
held her head insolently back, challenging and 
defying observation, proclaiming and glorying in 
a pampered self-consciousness. From under the 
black lace of her veil jewels glistened on the 
soft, barbaric brown skin. Pleasure seemed to 
have sensualized features and form into danger- 
ous alluring harmony, and panoplied her mind 
against thought. Her sleepy, large eyes rested 
on the door while she paused, hesitating between 
the instinctive craving of morbid curiosity and 
half- dormant reminiscences of recent gratifica- 
tions ; then, without glancing at the paper flutter- 
ing from the door, she entered the room. She 
bent over the cofhn with its emaciated, pitiful 
human contents, and her eyes dilated with the 

" White !" she whispered, in surprise, with a con- 
temptuous smile on her voluptuous lips. What ex- 
quisite flattery to her own rich, exuberant, sumpt- 
uous flesh ! What triumph for the fierce, bold 
blood thrilling and leaping in her veins ! She 
raised herself with complacent comeliness, and 
looked again before leaving. 

" Mais ! I never noticed it before. It is very 


strange. Mais grand Dieu !" she screamed, in 
reckless self-abandonment. " It is she ! I know 
it is she !" She remembered the paper at the 
door, and tore it off and read it. " I tell you," 
she screamed again to the impassive watcher, 
Betsy — " I tell you it is she ! Mamzelle Nenaine ? 
Mamzelle Nenaine ?" she interrogated, in an ago- 
nized whisper, throwing herself on her knees by 
the coffin. " Is it you } Oh ! is it you .'" She 
looked around fiercely and wildly. " But what does 
it all mean ? What can it all mean ? Can't you 
answer me ?" she demanded, in English, of Betsy. 
"Are you a fool ? How did this lady come here ? 
Who did it ? I want to know who dared do it ?" 

Betsy had risen respectfully. She was trying, 
with God's help and the old lady's cold, silent 
presence, to see now beyond the end. In con- 
formity with her ideas of responsibility to the 
dead and to the living, she had put off her rags 
and dirt, and — the last sacrifice of her unselfish 
heart — had put on a new black dress, white neck- 
erchief, and "tignon" — her own grave-clothes, 
bought with cold and starvation, and guarded re- 
ligiously through years of vagabondage for her 
final apparelling. 

" Who are you ? What are you doing here ?" 
demanded the imperious visitor. 

" Me, ma'am ? I am the madam's servant." 

" You lie ! You know you lie ! The madam 
never owned a servant like you." 


" I never said the madam owned me ; I said I 
was her servant ; she hired me." 

It looked as if the visitor could find no ade- 
quate expression for the passion that raged in 
her. She shook her fist at the bare cold walls, 
she stamped on the rough, uncovered floor, she 
caught sight of the jewels on her arms, and hurled 
the massive bracelets away from her, she tore 
open her dress to ease her swelling throat, and 
her bosom panted violently under crushed garni- 
tures of soft white lace. She fell down by the 
coffin again, and, bursting into tears, hid her face 
in the darned, worn, white " blouse volante " 
shroud, moaning, with long, wailing cries, " Mam- 
zelle Nenaine ! Mamzelle Nenaine !" 

"Where are her friends?" 

" Please, ma'am, she 'ain't got no friends, ex- 
cepting the apothecary gentleman at the corner. 
He was mighty good and kind ; he come when I 
went for him, and he stayed all night." 

" But, my God ! where are her relations ?" 

" I 'ain't never heerd of any relations besides 
the mamzelle — Mamzelle Claire." 

"Mademoiselle Claire! Claire Blanche .^ Mon- 
sieur Edgar's baby ?" 

She was silent again, as if unable to compre- 
hend it. 

" And God allowed this ! How long have they 
been living here — here in this cabin ?" 

" I don't know, ma'am ; it's nigh on to three 


years sence I've been with them, and they've 
been here all that time." 

The stranger looked up to heaven with a mut- 
tered blasphemous adjuration. 

Betsy had been gazing with her keen eyes as 
if into a murky depth ; then a cloud seemed to 
have passed away from the sun, for the room 
was a little lighter. " I see you now," she said, 
in a hoarse whisper. "I didn't see you before, 
the room was so dark." Throwing away all ef- 
fort at self-restraint, raising her whisper into a 
command : " Clear out from this room ! How dare 
you show your face here ! Clear out, I tell you, 

" Ha !" exclaimed the woman. The exclama- 
tion had a dangerous intonation, a menace of 
one fearless and unscrupulous. 

" Go out of that door, I tell you !" Betsy in- 
creased her distinctness and determination. 
" Don't you dare look at the face of my madam ! 
Don't you dare touch her again !" 

" Your madam ! Your madam !" 

The stranger cursed her with a French im- 
precation. "Don't you dare call her your madam ! 
She was my madam ! I was her Aza ! I belonged 
to her. I was given to her before I was a day 
old. I slept by the side of her bed ; she carried 
me around in her little arms like a doll; she raised 
me like her child ; she was my godmother ; she 
set me free. I loved her, I worshipped her. O 


God, how I worshipped her ! Mamzelle Nenaine, 
you know it is true ! Mamzelle Ne'naine, if you 
could speak to Aza once more ! Just one word ! — 
just one word !" 

A torrent of tears choked her voice. Betsy 
recoiled in horror. 

" Your madam ! Your — My God in heaven ! 
And she lay a- dying here, and the mamzelle 
a-starving, and you her servant, what belonged 
to her, in that house over there ! You ! a-scan- 
dalizing, a-rioting, a-frolicking, a-flaunting your- 
self in carriages, you and your gals, right past 
this house ! a-carrying on 3'our devilment right 
out there, and your mistress a-slaving and a-starv- 
ing ! You! You nigger!" The old woman's 
crooked back straightened until she could look 
the quadroon straight in the eye. 

" You — you are not that — " 

" Yes, I am ! Yes, I am that same dirty, stink- 
ing old rag-picker what did scrubbing for you. 
Not for me, mind you ! but to buy medicine for 
the poor old madam there ; a-lowering myself for 
her, a-dying and starving and freezing, while you 
was throwing away in the streets the money you 
stole out of the pockets of them white men !" 

" Hush ! Oh, for God's sake, don't talk so loud!" 

" And last night, when the end come — when 
the end come, I tell you — with the piano music 
a-pounding up the street, and the hollering and 
the laughing, and the poor mamzelle — " 



"Mademoiselle Claire Blanche?" repeated the 
quadroon, vaguely. 

Betsy misunderstood her meaning. 

" The last thing before the madam there died, 
when your music and your devilment was going 
on the loudest, I told her — I told her I v/ould 
look after the mamzelle the same as if I were her 
boughten slave ; and I'm going to do it. And I 
tell you, nigger, standing there before me in all 
your brazenness and finery and sinfulness, before 
you so much as speak to that child, before you so 
much as touch the tip end of her gown, you will 
have to trample the life out of me under your 

The inspired figure of the black woman came 
nearer and nearer, advancing between Aza and 
the coffin, pointing to the door. The quadroon 
tried to glare back her speechless rage ; but the 
arraignment was too crushing, the action too full 
of meaning. She dropped her eyes in shame. 

Ashamed before whom ? — a common rag-picker 
from the streets ! How dared she steal the lan- 
guage and sentiments of the dead one in the 
coffin, and talk to her like a mistress ? — her, the 
insubordinate, irreprovable one ! With a charac- 
teristic gesture she threw her head back again ; 
but in Betsy's fine, determined face, in the holy 
passion of her voice, in her firm, commanding eye, 
she recognized, not the stolen or borrowed prin- 
ciples of a white lady, but the innate virtue of all 


good women. She measured herself not with her 
dead mistress, but with Bgtsy, and for the first 
time in her wild, daring, passionate life felt the 
humiliation of repentance. Following the direc- 
tion of the imperious black finger she left the 

The day wore on to the hour before the funeral. 
Visits had ceased, and the silence of prayer was 
in the room about the old lady. Betsy, sitting at 
the head of the coffin, fanning unweariedly, heard 
in the other room, where Claire was, the sound of 
footsteps, the murmuring of voices, and her name 
called with a moaning cry ; or she fancied she 
heard it, for the solemnity and oppression of 
death had benumbed her faculties, and she felt 
uncertain of everything. At last, to end the 
dream-like confusion, she went to see, and left 
the old lady, for the first time that day, as much 
alone as if she were already in her grave. 

The children — a hushed, awed band crouching 
on the steps outside around a white tissue-paper 
bundle, had been peeping, and waiting long for 
this opportunity. It came now, to paralyze them 
with faintness and fear. At first they could make 
no impression on the green door v/ith their trem- 
bling fingers, all holding their breath, and work- 
ing at it at once. Then it slowly yielded, opening 
to them the darkened chamber within. They all 
stood up to follow, as they had promised one 
another, but when the door swung to again they 


were still in their places outside. All but one — 
the bundle-bearer, an appalled, scrawny, ragged, 
wild little creature with black, unkempt head and 
yellow skin, naked arms, shivering, bare legs, and 
feet clinging to the floor; with white teeth clinched, 
and fear-distended eyes looking anywhere but at 
that undefined object in the centre of the room. 
It took an eternity to cross the space to it, and 
yet the eternity ended too soon, it ended too soon. 
A barrier stopped her. Involuntarily she looked 
down. The locked teeth prevented the scream, 
but in the tense grip of her fingers the white 
tissue-paper gave way, and for the second time 
that day the orange-blossoms fell, but this time 
to break with eloquent fragrance the damp still- 
ness of death, enshrouding the rigid form in their 
loveliness, and crowning with a virgin anadem the 
earth-worn face looking heavenward through its 
last human experience — of love, not hate. The 
door slammed behind the fleeing messenger, still 
grasping her fragments of paper, and the children 
sped away again to their distant corner of obser- 

Betsy was not mistaken ; the bedchamber was 
filled with people — ladies and gentlemen whisper- 
ing and moving around, calling Claire by name, 
laying caressing hands on her head and shoul- 
ders. The girl only crouched lower by the side 
of the bed, and pressed her closed eyes tighter 


against the pillow taken from under bonne ma- 
man's head, and moaned, " Ah, Betsie ! Betsie !" 

Betsy looked around in amazement. 

" If you please to walk into the next room — " 
she began ; but seeing that they persisted in try- 
ing to arouse Claire, she pushed through them, 
and placing herself in front of the girl, said, quer- 
ulously, "Let the mamzelle alone ; she's not harm- 
ing any one ; what do you want to bother her for ?" 

She could not understand their explanations 
at first, being dull and dazed with fatigue and 

But when she did the joy in her heart weak- 
ened her. She bent over and steadied her trem- 
bling hand on Claire's head. " Child, they is all 
your kin ; done found you out. Honey, they 
wants to know you. Honey, they wants to love 

But the head only went deeper into the pillow. 

" You must excuse her," she said, looking 
around, anxious to excuse the offence. " You 
must really excuse her; she don't know, herself, 
what she's doing. She 'ain't lifted her head from 
that pillow sence last night." 

After a pause of decorous silence, the ladies 
and gentlemen, as they will do at funerals, recom- 
menced their whispering. It was excusable this 
time, the first gathering of a family which had 
been separated by the whirlwind of revolution a 
decade ago. There was much to talk over and 


a long roll of the dead to call ; but chiefly there 
was to recount to one another, each version char- 
acter-tinged, their utter dismay at the intelligence 
brought them by Aza that day. How like a fiery 
cross she had carried the tale around from one 
household to the other, and had rallied them 
once again around the old standard of family 
pride and family love. With what passionate elo- 
quence had she told them of the death of bonne 
maman — of bonne maman whom they had sup- 
posed living at ease in France ! Dead ! here ! a 
wretched, forsaken exile in their own city. Dead! 
in the very reach of their hand, in the sound of 
their voice. Dead ! without a friend ! she, whom 
living, not so very long ago after all, they had 
surrounded, a crowd of eager, obsequious court- 
iers. They spoke of the old plantation days, with 
its magnificent, luxurious, thoughtless hospitality; 
of the ancient, aristocratic distinction of a name 
which had been a knightly pledge in two coun- 
tries; and they looked at the little room with its 
inexorable revelations. In the exaltation of quick- 
ening emotion they forgot to whisper. Vying in 
their efforts to atone for the present, they brought 
from their memory such glorious tributes that the 
old lady in her pine coffin appeared clad in gar- 
ments bright enough then and there for a bodily 
ascension to heaven. Pride and reserve were 
sacrificed, painful secrets hinted at in this holy 
revival that all might be said, now that it was 


too late for anything to be done ; until it became 
evident, as evident as the misery surrounding 
them, that in their own persons or the persons of 
dead parents they were bonded by unpaid dues 
of fealty and obligation to their deceased kins- 
woman, or, failing her, to the shrinking, cowering, 
fair-haired girl kneeling by the bed. 

A quadroon woman in the corner, dressed in 
the old servile costume, listened in bitter weep- 
ing. At the grating sound of wheels outside she 
arose and crossed the room. Calling them by 
name, Master this and Mistress that, she pointed 
to Betsy, and in hurried, broken tones related the 
simple facts of her devoted service to those who 
owned her only by virtue of their dependence, 
who could pay her only with their thanks. In a 
wild, penitent way she was adding more, but Betsy, 
listening to one and to the other, tears running 
unheeded down her cheeks onto her white hand- 
kerchief, raised her voice also, and, after several 
attempts, succeeded in saying, "And the apothe- 
cary gentleman at the corner, he was mighty good 
and kind ; he come when I went for him, and he 
stayed all night." 

The sincere tones and voices, in which ever 
and anon came a chord like bonne maman's, 
penetrated, in spite of the pillow, to Claire's ears, 
and won her to listen. Such glorious, tender 
homage to her whom she bitterly supposed un- 
known, uncared-for, abandoned even by God, 


raised her head as if by enchantment. She arose 
in an excitement of love and gratitude, showing 
all her people her sad, emaciated beauty, her out- 
worn, out -grown, wretched clothing, and when 
they all rushed forward impulsively to embrace 
her, she clung to them as indeed to the success- 
ors of bonne maman. 

A pauper's funeral had been ordered by the 
kind apothecary, but the family and friends sum- 
moned by Aza formed a cortege that filled the 
little street, and the service in the mortuary chapel 
where Aza directed the hearse to stop was such as 
only the wealthiest could command. At the end 
of the procession w^alked — where had Aza found 
them all so quickly? — a retinue of old slaves, the 
last, highest local affirmation of family worth ; 
among them, one of them, in costume, race, con- 
dition, was Aza herself, bearing the conventional 
black and white bead memorial " Priez pour 

It was late in the night, when the deserted 
streets promised security from recognition, that 
she hastened through them and entered, secretly, 
the little back gate-w-ay of the triangular fence 
in her slavish dress, worn for the last time. The 
piano had already commenced its dances. 





^^^^OTHING was silent about the old 
cemetery but the dead themselves — 
nothing respectable ,• all the noises 
and confusions that had harassed 
them in life were here to harrow the 
atmosphere above their rest in death ; all the 
mould and ugliness of an undergrowth popula- 
tion, which their living feet had avoided, lay thick 
and fetid all round about the walls ramparted 
with tombs that enclosed them now. 

The city had grown densely around the ceme- 
tery, but the houses had backed up or sidled up, 
as it were, not caring to face their grim neighbor. 
Those which by necessity did face it had the as- 
pect of houses accustomed to look at worse things 
in life than death — houses that had not enjoyed 
the sad privilege of falling from a higher estate 
or disappointing hopeful prospects, but which 
had been preordained from the beginning to deg- 
radation and ostracism. 

A broad space had been left in front by the 
city ancestors for some beautiful boulevard or 

120 MADRILiNE j 

funeral parade-ground, but it had become an 
unsightly waste, a " common " for street chil- 
dren, a lounging- place for social refuse, a me- 
dium for back-door convivialities and intrigues, a 
dumping -ground for unmagazinable traffic, and 
the lower end of it the landing -wharf for a 
schooner fleet, which discharged daily cargoes of 
lumber, brick, and charcoal onto the frazzled 
grass, and daily crews of negroes, " dagos," and 
roughs into the ill-favored coffee-houses at the 

Up in the air the thin fine spars of the vessels 
could be seen coming in from the distance along 
the invisible canal, gliding into and out of occul- 
tation, past trees and houses and open garden 
spots, and past the cemetery. And sometimes 
they seemed sailing or being cordelled straight 
through the cemetery ; and then, by a fancy, the 
masts and spars looked as if they might be 
anchored there with their vessels, and the marble 
crosses, spires, and angels, and effigies as if they 
might be moving, gliding along in the air, sailing 
on through and above the noisome foulness of 
the place, with its unwholesome effluvice of cor- 
rupting morals, carrying their freight over an in- 
visible canal to some pure, quiet, serene, distant 
basin. It was a closed cemetery lifetimes ago ; 
burial in it had become an inheritance, or a priv- 
ilege of society partnership, the funerals dwindling 
away into a steady, slow monotony, calculable 


to a fractional certainty. On Sundays and holi- 
days, with strange, inexplicable regularity, the 
societaire, funerals, with music and banners and 
regalia and unlimited carriages, conducted by 
drivers of unlimited thirst, to the great pecuniary 
profit of the coffee-houses. Once a month, or 
perhaps not quite so often, there was a last pomp- 
ous effort of some of the old elite, well worth look- 
ing at, if only for the ecclesiastical demonstration 
and the flowers and the sedate affectations of the 
Sunday tippling drivers. Oftenest, however, so 
fortunes change, it was the hearse and single car- 
riage affair, with a fragmentary procession on 
foot, the furtive, almost surreptitious, admittance 
of the poverty as well as death stricken heir or 
heiress to the ancestral sepulchre. And even 
these were interesting, particularly in a crisis of 
quiet in the neighborhood, or on rainy days, for 
the poor seem always to be buried on rainy days, 
as the society members on holidays. 

Perhaps it was this guarantee of daily pleasure 
food which made the houses in the locality at- 
tractive as residences. Sure it is that the neces- 
sity of living in that one spot became the tyr- 
annous necessity of a vice to those who once 
adopted it. When vacancies sometimes occurred 
in the shambling tenements through rent failure 
of tenant or patience failure of landlord, the billet 
seldom remained long over the threshold. If it 
were not a place for the industrious, it neverthe- 


less required a certain amount of industry to 
live up to the daily advantages of idleness ; and 
the countenances of the people thereabouts, if 
they did not show the fatness of good living, 
showed neither the inert vacuity of the pleasure- 

It was the last day of October, in its beautiful 
morning, with but the gentlest suggestions of au- 
tumn radiating through the atmosphere. The 
long, lingering summer had faded away like the 
febrile dream of an over-luxurious night which 
leaves the mind tranquil but alert, the body ener- 
vated but pleased. The fine weather for " la 
Toussaint " has passed into proverb. 

La Toussaint, the Festival of the Dead, is the 
ietepar excellence of the city. It is a day encrys- 
tallized by time and sentiment with poetic super- 
stitions and custom ; the one day upon which 
the cemeteries resurrect out of the things they 
are, and become the things they should be : radi- 
ant sanctuaries, exhaling beauty, purity, and fra- 
grance ; when the dead — the impotent, despised 
dead — lie enchased in their tombs like saints in 
their shrines, to be propitiated with flowers and 
importuned with prayers. It is the one day in 
the city during which the glittering supremacy 
of wealth is nullified ; when not he who lives 
finely, but he who is buried finely is envied ; 
when the good families of the past are compared 
with the parvenus of the present ; when old ro- 


mances and histories enjoy an annual blossoming 
out of the names on the mortuary tablets. 

"Oh yes, they zxo. grand'' chose now, but show me 
where their dead are buried." The most ordinary 
servant felt herself in a position to make that re- 
mark, and gossiping tongues, whose usual voca- 
tion was to spread reports of shameful neglect of 
the living, on this day busied themselves about 
the more shameful neglect of the dead — if such 
cases ever occurred. And those waifs and strays 
who begin life in the maternity ward and end it 
on the dissecting-table of the hospital, and those 
vague asylum humanities who date from nothing 
recordable but a parent's death or desertion, and 
even the criminals who have suicided from the 
moral life of their kind — at no other time do they 
feel their deprived condition as on this day. 
And some — the cunning ones — go so far as to 
affect graves they do not possess, and sally forth 
on the morning of All-Saints with the emblems 
of remembrances and regrets they have never 
known, "just like other Christians," as the local 
comparison is. 

Coming at a season when strangers yet shun 
the place, there is no festival that calls out as it 
does the full muster of the populace — a populace 
of unfermented original types, strong and full 
with the salient untempered flavors of race in- 
gredients, a vin brut of humanity. 

And if the festival could rouse a whole city to 


intensity of excitement, what must it produce in 
the neighborhood of a cemetery, and a cemetery 
the oldest, most aristocratic, and most important 
of the city? And if November first were such a 
day, what must the last of October be, when, from 
local appearances, the whole world seemed to 
have been caught procrastinating, and had but a 
few fleeting hours to prepare their tombs for the 
morrow's judgment ? Such hurry ! Such mad- 
dening confusion ! 

In the cemetery itself the most extraordinary 
"house -cleaning" was in process, such white- 
washing of stucco, scrubbing of marble, reddening 
of brick pavements, cutting of grass, trimming of 
shrubbery, spreading of clean white sand over 
walks, and laying parterres off in fanciful designs 
with little shells, and such transplanting of bloom- 
ing bushes of marguerites, roses, and borders of 
violets into sterile beds ! And the voices order- 
ing, protesting, wrangling, hurrying, scolding, di- 
recting ! One would think they never had had 
more than a day to prepare in. 

Outside, on the banquette was the usual market 
sf ene of everything that could be required in to- 
day's confusion for to-morrow's ornament: hil- 
locks of sand and shells, flowers in pots, or torn 
up by the roots, or loose in baskets, or wired 
around stiff forms — marguerites, dahlias (white, 
yellow, and purple), and amaranths, dropping 
over with their bulky, fleshy, rich redness ; care- 


fully guarded trays of plaster angels, Madonnas, 
infant Jesuses, Saviours, and saints, all fashioned 
in Italian likenesses and clothed with Italian 
gorgeousness. And all the length of the wall, 
hung on nails, wreaths, crosses, hearts, anchors, 
fabricated of curled glazed paper, black or white, 
or black and white mixed, or of flowers ; white 
roses with black leaves, or black roses with white 
leaves, or of dried immortelles (purple, black, 
white), all tied with shining satin ribbon, gayly 
fluttering in the breeze, carrying their legends in 
gold and silver printing. And there were not 
wanting, also, these for the millionaire griefs, so 
to speak — handsome, elaborate, bead memorials, 
jingling and showy, carrying their succinctly 
pictured desolation in a medallion in the centre : 
a tomb, a weeping-willow, and a weeping figure, 
addressed in letters around the rim to all the 
different mortuary members of the human family, 
with all manner of passionate invocations from 
the bereavable human heart. 

And wherever one could edge herself in, sat 
old negro women in tignons, before waiters of 
pralines, molasses and cocoa-nut candy, or pans 
of pain pafafc, or skillets of dough-nuts frying 
over lighted furnaces ; keeping the flies and the 
gamins off with long whisks of split palmetto, 
while they nodded their heavy sleepy heads. All 
the venders crying their wares at once, in the de- 
teriorated traditions or personal perversions of 


half a score of dialects, with a vociferousness and 
persistence that proclaimed the transient nature 
of the opportunity. 

The coffee-houses at the corner kept up their 
usual steady holiday business, realcoholizing their 
patrons and turning them out to doze through 
the time between drams on the convenient bench 
under the awning, or to digest in one long glutton- 
ous sleep on the grass their one long gluttonous 
drink, or only slightly exhilarated to drift as far as 
the planked crossing, where a hilarious crowd was 
gathering around a quadroon lad, who held the 
only novel feature of the day — a monkey in leash. 

The long, lean, lanky animal climbed and 
sprang unceasingly at the end of its tether, col- 
lecting an unfailing toll of screams and fright 
from the passers-by, responding with human ea- 
gerness to the prompt applause of its malice. 
"Loulou," whispered a little negro to the quad- 
roon, "look!" — he pointed to a figure just turn- 
ing in from the corner — " Madrilene !'' 

The girl's height enabled her to carry her long, 
flat basket easily above the heads of the people 
who streamed over the plank walk with her on 
their way to the cemetery. The stiff funereal 
glazed paper wreaths piled in her basket stood 
out in ghastly becomingness above a face which, 
though young, seemed created to be overshad- 
owed by the emblems of death : a thin, scraped 
profile skin sallow to blackness, hollow eyes, 



brooding brows, a mouth held rigid and expres- 
sionless by determination, and eyes fixed in stud- 
ied abstraction. As she came closer to view, 
her costume seemed not less appropriate to her 
burden than her face : her worn shoes, faded 
stuff skirt, shrunken sacque, and the ragged ban- 
danna kerchief tied not around her head, but un- 
der her chin. 

She arrived opposite the ill-behaved group of 
'men and boys. 

" File !"' whispered Loulou to the monkey in 
his arms. 

But the wily animal mistook the aim, or sub- 
stituted another one. He jumped not to Madri- 
lene's basket, but to the head of an unsuspecting 
child walking in front of her, and there poised 
himself, arching his serpentine tail around his 
bald, ashen-gray face, peering over at the child, 
and grinning at the terrified screams that fell 
upon the air. 

Madrilene's expression changed to one of pure 
rage. She threw her basket to the ground, and, 
as quickly as the animal himself could have done 
so, she caught the monkey around the neck, 
throttling him as she dragged him off. 

" Stop, stop, Madrilene ! Curse you ! stop !" 
screamed the quadroon boy, running to the res- 
cue of his pet. " Stop ! You are choking him 
to death !" 

She flung the monkey to the ground to seize 

128 madrilene; 

the boy's head by the short, black, curly hair. 
She slapped him vigorously. " Dare ! dare !'' 
she said, "dare frighten white children again !" 

The monkey — his simulated distress had been 
but another evidence of his versatile talents — 
bounded nimbly from the ground, amid the loud 
admiring laughter of the crowd. 

The boy, who had lain resistless enough in 
Madrilene's grasp, recovered himself as soon as 
released. Construing the laughter behind him 
as mockery to himself, he furiously sought to re- 
cover his lost prestige. Shaking his fist at the 
back of the girl, he shouted after her : 

" Mulatresse ! nigger ! nigger ! 'coon ! 'coon !" 
(a localism of irritating significance to the col- 
ored), adding other insolences of his quick and 
ready invention ; and the insolences of his class 
are the unrepeatable of language. 

The crowd paid no attention. It was only the 
usual street quarrel to them, pursued with the 
characteristic violence of the colored. The girl 
walked away unheedingly. She paused at the 
corner, hesitating between two courses, and then 
slowly, as if yielding to temptation, turned to the 
right towards the iron cross that rose above the 
gate of the cemetery. 

Almost unnoticed in the voluble excitement 
around it, a funeral was driving up. 

A hush spread over the banquette, pantomime 
paused, and instantaneously a hedge of specta- 


tors was formed on each side of the entrance, from 
which, with that never-sated curiosity of the Hving 
about the dead, eager heads craned forward to 

Madrilene waited, watching the slow backing 
up of the hearse until, struck by a thought, she 
turned her head towards the cemetery gate, glan- 
cing into it. " Where was the sexton. Monsieur 
Sacerdote ?" 

Pushing her way out of the throng, she ran 
quickly across the cleared space into the enclos- 
ure and down a path. It had been designed for 
a brave, fine cemetery — a fit repository for the 
mortal remains of aristocracy and wealth, with 
handsome monuments, broad avenues, gentle vis- 
tas, and pleasing perspectives. There were some 
costly family mausoleums in it and palatial soci- 
ety sepulchres — huge mortuary hotels ; but death 
had been too indiscriminate and too busy ; and 
periodic epidemics in the past had annulled all 
plans and calculations. It showed now the con- 
fused plenum of a caravansary into which tired, 
pilgrims had been driven by stress of weather or 
nightfall, glad to huddle themselves together pell- 
mell, in any position, confident only of their fa- 
tigue and slumber. Whichever way a coffin could 
be placed upon the earth, there had arisen a tomb' 
over it ; and vaults had been arched upon vaults, 
rising higher and higher, stretching their buriali 
capacity in the only direction left them. 


In the early days the sexton could not be too 
young, strong, and vigorous for his work. Now 
it was a mere somnolent porter's task to sit in- 
side the lodge day after day, waiting for an order 
to open a tomb here, or a certificate that time, by 
making a vacancy, authorized a new lease there. 
And Monsieur Sacerdote — Fan tome Sacerdote, 
as the people pronounced the " Vendome " of his 
name — octogenarian, and decrepit to the verge 
of vital tenuity, did not find his physical func- 
tions taxed by his office. 

It was not an easy labyrinth for the feet to 
unravel. Life itself had not more vicissitudes 
than the gnarled paths, with their obsolete grave 
mounds for stumbling-blocks, and their fair open- 
ings dammed unexpectedly into aimless cids-de- 
sac. But Madrilene ran through them swiftly and 
easily, without pause or breath, looking sharply 
from side to side, impatiently waving away arrest- 
ing voices and gestures, venturing from time to 
time a whispered call : " Monsieur Sacerdote ! 
Monsieur Sacerdote !" She arrived fruitlessly, at 
the corner where a scrubby cypress-tree had man- 
aged to rear itself to some maturity of funereal 
foliage, and where the 'tiers of rented mural sep- 
ulchres (" ovens," they are called) rise against the 
terminal wall. She ran her eye along the old 
worn slabs, with their tottering balustrades and 
crumbling bases, pulled by the sinking ground into 
queer distortions, like a paralytic's grin. From 


the half-submerged bottom to the grass-covered 
top one, there was not a gap in the drear so- 

" Monsieur Sacerdote !" she called, louder. 

There was only the gay chattering of the peo- 
ple cleaning their tombs to be heard, and only 
their moving forms to be seen. The girl turned 
into another path, and after a few steps almost 
fell over the one she sought. 

" As I thought — asleep !" she muttered. 

One could hardly have been more so inside 
the crumbling brick cofhn- shaped structure on 
which the old man lay, in face of the tomb he 
had just opened. His hat had fallen off, and his 
long white hair lay spread out like some curious 
lichen growing in the masonry. The warm sun 
gleamed on the scant silver threads and shone 
on the round, small, red, semi -bald head, and 
on the face sinking into formlessness almost as 
though corruption and not decrepitude were the 
cause. He held a piece of bread in his withered 
hand, and the flies buzzed over him and over the 
contents of an open tin bucket indiscriminately ; 
and the lizards took his figure in as a matter of 
course in their frolics after the flies. 

" He looks like a runaway corpse," thought the 
girl. " Monsieur Sacerdote !" she called, loud- 
ly, to him in French — " Monsieur Sacerdote !" 
She shook him by the shoulder. " Awake ! 
awake ! The funeral is at the gate !" 


The old man's head rolled over into another 
position, and the toothless gums resumed their 
suspended movements of mastication. The shak- 
ing had an effect, but deafness protected his ear. 
She put her lips close to it, and sinking her voice 
to a piercing distinctness, repeated : 

" Wake ! Get up ! The funeral is at the gate. 
The funeral ! the funeral !" 

"What is it, Marie Madeleine ?" 

He closed his eyes again after one feeble open- 
ing of them. 

" The funeral ! They are looking for you ! 
Run ! Run to meet them !" 

" Eh, Marie Madeleine ?" He was the only 
one who ever called her by her name, instead of 
by the vulgar contraction of it, and he kept re- 
peating it over vaguely, as if it were a part of the 
degustation of the bread in his mouth. 

She got him to a sitting posture and then pulled 
him to his feet, talking, repeating, gesticulating, 
coaxing the senile incomprehension out of his 
eyes. He finally started, as she bade him, down 
a certain path, trotting, with short, stiff, rheumatic 

"He will be caught some day, and then, yes, 
he will lose his place, and he will be sent to the 
Little Sisters of the Poor. Monsieur Sacerdote 
with the beggars at the Little Sisters of the 
Poor !" 

In desperate hurry she began to clear away 


some of the disorder — hiding the tin bucket, gath- 
ering up the scattered tools, sweeping the debris 
of masonry together. She put her head close to 
the opening and peered through the gloom into 
the interior of the tomb. Undefinable accumu- 
lations rounded the sides and filled the corners. 
The far end was hidden in darkness, but there 
was a twilight path down the swept centre. 

" He has done, indeed, everything. All is 
ready. He was only. tired." 

She worked over the mortar on the board and 
piled the bricks nearer to hand. 

Never could guests arrive more inopportunely 
than a funeral at the cemetery at such an hour. 
The procession was long in coming. The pall- 
bearers carried their difficult load slowly through 
the hard extremities of narrow spaces and sudden 
angles, made still harder by standing buckets of 
whitewash, pavements slippery with soapsuds, 
and unremoved heaps of trash. All the bustling 
workers had to jump into attitudes of respect— 
the women, simulating prayers with their lips, 
while secretly tugging at their skirts; the men 
gingerly taking off their hats with their soiled fin- 
gers; the street urchins hurried away from their 
momentary jobs, around by-paths, into advanta- 
geous positions whence they could make grimaces 
and signs at the tormented-looking acolytes. 

Marie Madeleine stepped back as the priest 
appeared, and put herself in a corner where she 


could see, but not be seen. Her figure was so 
frail and slight it looked like a shadow thrown 
where she stood ; her face like a relievo ornament 
cut into the marble against which it leaned. The 
dazzling white surface, illumined by the full rays 
of the sun, made distinct the ordinarily insignifi- 
cant minutix of her features, revealing some of 
the mysteries of character and age which make 
up expression — the softness under the chin ; the 
deep indenture of the upper lip; the sharp claw 
scratches on the lower ; straight, outstanding eye- 
lashes, an irregularity in the line of the nose ; the 
unfleshed cheek-bone; the thin, bruised rather 
than dark-looking skin ; the opaque, dry, burned- 
out eye-sockets ; the eyes black and disturbed, 
not with hidden conflicts and rebellions, but car- 
rying, like godless worlds, their unshaped con- 
tents in chaos. She had pushed her kerchief 
from her head ; short rumpled strands of ill-kept 
black hair fell over her forehead and behind her 

" Her first evening here ! All clean and beau- 
tiful and bright ! She comes to her tomb like a 
bride to her home, and to-morrow it will be all 
flowers and ornaments and burning candles, like 
a celebration in her honor. Her family will come 
year after year to lay flowers under her name. 
Her friends will pass by her tomb every All- 
Saints and talk about her. And her family will 
die, one after the other, and they will all come in 


there and lie with her ; and little children, far, far 
away in the future — children of her family — will 
be brought here, all to be buried together, all to 
rise together." 

Self-abandoned, self-unconscious, she followed 
her thoughts, undisturbed by the muttered func- 
tions of the priest and the sharp outbreak of grief 
that followed the placing of the coffin in the vault, 
and the long, whining sobs that accompanied the 
tap-tapping of the bricks by Monsieur Sacerdote's 
trowel. She watched the barrier rise higher and 
higher, past the coffin, past the flowers on top, 
past the black vacant space, to the one little crack 
left ; past that, past the breath of life, past life it- 
self ! Immured in one long dormitory, with dust 
of skeletons, flowers, wood. . , . But Madrilene 
took not this view of it. 

" It is like getting at night into a bed where 
one's father and mother have slept. One should 
sleep well in that bed." 

Madrilene's bed was a pallet on the floor of 
Madame Lais's room. 

" One should have none but beautiful dreams 
there, and no thoughts to chase one awake all 
through the night. And the walls about such a 
bed would not show faces to grimace at one. The 
night would protect one there from the day — 
those horrible da3^s that come back and come back 
to remembrance, like dishonest duns collecting 
their bills over and over again. It is a fine thing 


where parents leave such a bed as that for their 
children — regular parents." 

Very few of what are called regular parents 
live about a cemetery. Ties and relationships 
assume a voluntary and transient character in 
that careless neighborhood, life flowing by choice 
through crooked rather than straight channels. 
Madrilene had never lived in any other neighbor- 

" And the dead will have their festival to-mor- 
row, and she will be among them, fresh from earth. 
It will be a birthday to her. To-night at twelve 
o'clock she will come out of her new tomb with 
them, and they will walk down these paths, visit- 
ing one another, and talking and laughing." (A 
common superstition.) " They will hurry away 
at daylight, but not far away. They will be 
above us there in the air, watching, listening, see- 
ing everything, knowing everything. They see 
who come to their tombs and who stay away ; who 
remember, who forget, and who are ashamed, and 
who deny them. They will see the little orphans 
around the table at the gate, ' chinking, chinking ' 
the money in their plates. They will see who 
give to the orphans and who do not. The parents 
of the orphans themselves will see it. But the or- 
phans cannot see their parents. Oh no ! Those 
who can remember them can see what they knew; 
but those who have not known, who do not re- 
member, they look into the faces of the passers-by, 


and say, 'Was she like that lady? Was he like 
that gentleman?' The white orphans pick out 
white ladies and gentlemen for their parents. 
God leaves the photographs perhaps in the hearts 
of the children. But sometimes the children 
don't like the photographs, and then — even the 
colored ones pick out white ladies and gentle- 
men for their parents." 

Her thoughts were leading her up to that em- 
pyrean to which human thoughts can rise from 
lowest depths, seeking, it may be, their heavenly 
source, or it may be only seeking their earthly 

The funeral procession went away again, the 
grave became deserted, and the busy day seemed 
about going, too. The sinking sun began to cast 
oblique rays over the tombs ; the breeze blew the 
white sails stealthily along the canal outside ; the 
noises were ebbing; the throng dispersing. Al- 
most — almost — there was quiet in and about the 
cemetery. The preliminary warning of the bell 
for shutting the gate rang, but the girl heard it 
not. As the rich and the happy do, she luxu- 
riously let the moments pass unheeded. 

Monsieur Sacerdote commenced his rounds 
with his long stick to make sure that no evil- 
intentioners nor stragglers were shut in, striking 
the tombs briskly to herald his approach. 

" Ah, mon Dieu !" she exclaimed, as the stick 
found her out. " It would be good to stay here 


this way all the time. Monsieur Sacerdote," she 
said to him, stretching out her hand to stop his 
staff, " how good it would be to stay here this way 
all the time! Never to go back — never to go 
back ! To lie here among the clean white tombs 
until judgment-day !" This had been in her mind 
all her life. When she was a little child, half 
naked, all dirty from the streets, she had begged 
to be left in the cemetery, "A\ith the dead, with 
the good dead, with the white dead ;" and as she 
said then, she as childishly said now : " Maybe I 
might die, and you might slip me into one of 
these tombs here — who would know ? And then 
on resurrection-day — it would be a good thing for 
resurrection-day to come on All-Saints, wouldn't 
it, Monsieur Sacerdote? — on resurrection-day I 
would rise with the others. We resurrect white, 
do we not, Monsieur Sacerdote ? I would be found 
out otherwise. All white — white limbs, white faces, 
white wings, white clothes. Not yellow — not black 
corpses rising with their white bands." She closed 
her eyes and shuddered. " Oh, the fearful sight ! 
And if I arose with the white, would they turn me 
out, do you think ?" 

The old man raised his dim eyes to her face, 
and began to move his nerveless lips to an- 
swer, when a violent blow aimed from behind 
missed the girl, and rang on the tomb beside 
her; the torrent of abuse that followed was surer. 
"Devil! Dog! Vileness ! Wretch! Filth! De- 


testable animal of the earth ! Mulatresse ! Ne- 
gress !" 

The assailant, a quadroon woman, came into 
view, making ineffectual attempts to repeat the 
blow. Her passion supplied words too fast for 
utterance, the threats and abuse choked her 
breath and overloaded her lips. She would hold 
on to one word and repeat it mechanically, until 
the phrase would come bursting out, carrying a 
spray of white foam with it. 

" You think you can beat Loulou ! You think 
you can beat him in the streets before everybody! 
I will beat you ! I will show you ! Filtl\ of the 
last gutter in the city ! You shall feel the weight 
of this hand, I tell you ! You beat my child for 
white children ! White ... Let me get hold of 
you ! Let me put hands on you ! I will fix you ! 
I will teach you! I will strip you! I will kill 
you! You . . ." 

She seemed to be afraid of saying nothing; no 
term repugned her, and no impurity seemed too 
impure to apply to the girl, who contented her- 
self with avoiding blows, pressing her lips tightly 
together, while Monsieur Sacerdote, looking be- 
wildered, alternated his " Marie Madeleines !" with 
" I command you ! I command you !" to the virago. 

She was a large woman, well formed, and had 
all the points which go to make the beauty of her 
type. Her cheeks glowed with the only blushes 
vouchsafed them— the heat of passion ; the blood 


seemed almost to start the dark thick skin, and 
back of her heavy black eyes it glistened like red 
coals of fire. A white scum settled around her 
lips — large, full, pampered, pulpy lips — with their 
inevitable subtle suggestions of immodesties. 
There appeared to be no lengths to which the 
tide of passion might not carry her. 

" May I ask the price of these?" 

The interruption came from a man, the unper- 
ceived spectator of the scene, and the concealed 
observer of the girl from the moment she awoke 
Monsieur Sacerdote. He pointed with his stick 
to the basket of paper wreaths. 

The quadroon woman instantly included him 
in her discourse, giving the girl no space to 
answer in. 

" A miserable creature, sir, who is always for- 
saking her own race to run after the whites. 
And she has the temper of a demon, sir. She beat 
my son, beat him almost to death, out there in 
the street! A little child — ah, but I shall make 
her pay for it!" Then, controlling her passion, 
she glided miraculously into the obsequious civil- 
ity of her class to the whites, and sought to please, 
by voice and demeanor, and a deft flattery of 
prejudice. " She should stay in her class, sir; 
me, I stay in my class. If God made us quad- 
roons, we should be quadroons. She tries to pass 
herself off for white," 

The girl almost opened her lips to speak. 


"When quadroons try to pass themselves off 
for white, it is for no good purpose, sir, as you 

" I will buy a half-dozen of these, but you must 
come and put them on the tombs for me, your- 
self." The man turned and walked away. Madri- 
lene waited in her same attitude. 

" Go— go follow the gentleman! Don't you 
see he wants to buy some of your wreaths? Go, 
but remember — to-night!" The woman added 
this in a muttered whisper, half closing her en- 
raged eyes. 

Madrilene, after a moment's hesitation, picked 
up her basket and walked after the stranger. He 
was reading over the names on a tomb when she 
caught up with him. 

"These, sir, are not fit for you; they are for 
the colored cemetery and the very poor." Her 
voice was low. It sounded like a voice seldom 
used. " I was on my way to the colored ceme- 
tery. I only stopped in here a moment." 

" I shall buy some of these, all the same." 

" If you would permit me, sir, I could make 
you some flower wreaths to-night^real flowers." 

" But I would like to put them on the tombs 

" Show me the tombs, sir, and I will have them 
decorated by daylight to-morrow. Or tell me the 
names — I know every tomb here." 

" I will show them to you." He pointed out 


one or two, and then walked on rapidly through 
one path after the other. 

" Are these all, sir ?" 

He started out of his absorption. " Ah, yes, 
yes!" and then, one would have said almost at 
random, he pointed out three or four other tombs. 

" You can pay me to-morrow, after you see 
them," she said, in answer to a gesture he made 
towards his purse. 

And then the delayed evening bell rang imper- 
atively, ordering all out of the cemetery before 
the closing of the gate. It was full early, as 
some discontented grumblers did not fail to re- 
mark on their way to the exit. 

"That old sexton is so blind, he thinks it is 
sundown at mid-day." 

" He is too old to see, he is too old to hear — in 
fact, he is too old to be alive any longer." 

" You noticed he was not there for the funeral 
to-day ?" 

" Somebody ought to report him." 

Madrilene passed out into the street. The 
stranger paused by the sexton, who stood holding 
the gate in his hand. 

"Who is this girl.?" he asked, abruptly. 

Monsieur Sacerdote looked at the questioner; 
he was neither young nor handsome, nor " that 
kind of a man." 

"Marie Madeleine, but those people call her 


"Who are those people ?" 

The old man shrugged his shoulders. 

" Do you think that woman will carry out her 
threats ?" 

Another shrug of the shoulders. 

" Where does she live?" 

" Those people keep chambrcs garnies some- 
where on Street." 

The stranger seemed to understand the indefi- 
nite reference. He looked at the sexton a mo- 
ment, as if to gauge the advisability of further 
questions, and then he, too, walked away through 
the ugly wasted boulevard. 

Marie Madeleine resumed her deferred itin- 
eracy, turning the corner at which she had before 
hesitated, and walking down the street to the 
cemetery set apart for the burial of the col- 

It was more neglected, and if possible more out- 
raged by entourage, than the other place. There 
was no sidewalk, the dilapidated walls patched 
up to irregular heights, for the accommodation 
of vaults inside, threatened to fall and burst asun- 
der at any time. On the high, level places a 
miniature forest grew — weeds, grass, and chance 
seedlings of trees, and vines that drooped almost 
to the ground outside. 

As she had done the length of the other ceme- 
tery, Madrilene touched the walls as she walked 
along with her out-stretched fingers : " Dead in 


there ! dead in there ! And who were you ? and 
who were you ? All dead ! all dead !" 

It was only thought, and in words not her own. 
Her own words, from the common store of lan- 
guage about her, could not have expressed her 
thoughts ; or perhaps the thoughts as well as the 
words were foreign to her ; perhaps the thoughts 
were transplanted with the words from the books 
read aloud to Monsieur Sacerdote in surreptitious 
hours, in that stolen acquirement which neither 
Madame Lais nor her family suspected. Read- 
ing! They would as soon have provided her 
with a looking-glass. 

There were the same scenes around this ceme- 
tery as the other one. The same or rather a 
greater throng, and greater hilarity. Nature was 
the same — sun, atmosphere, verdure, houses — all 
the same. But the faces of the people, they were 
different ; passed over, as it were, with a color for 
a travesty; with an ochreous wash. Yellow, yel- 
low, brown, black — almost all yellow. Differ- 
ences of feature and expression, height and figure, 
were all lost in the one monotonous hue — the hue 
of a race creeping down, or is it a race creeping 
up the scale ? A patois race. 

Madrilene hastened through it as if flying from 
pursuit. But who can distance thoughts? And 
she had been fury-driven since she could think. 
And such thoughts — such strange thoughts ! Did 
she think the thoughts herself, or did God, who 


sends so much into the hearts and minds of 
young girls — even to the most abject — send them 
to her? How could she ascertain? Could she 
have questioned Madame Lais, or Palmyre — the 
virago mother of Loulou— or Antoinette, or Phi- 
lomene, or Athalie, or any of Madame Lais's other 
daughters ? Or any of the yellow men who came 
through the back gate to visit them? Or any of 
the white men who rented rooms from Madame 
Lais ? 

She might have had ample opportunity to ask 
these last, if, like Antoinette, Philomene, Palmyre, 
and Athalie, she had chosen to serve them — carry 
them their coffee of mornings, attend to their 
chambers, wash and mend their clothing for them. 
There could not be found more amiable servitors 
than the four daughters of Madame Lais, what- 
ever their back-yard character might be, and so 
they never lacked pocket-money, fine dresses, and 

But Madrilene would never serve the lodgers. 
At first she had to endure suffering to maintain 
her obstinate refusal. That was a little over a year 
ago, when people began to call her cette jeune 
fille. She would not have been clothed in such 
rags now had she yielded to Madame Lais. Sell- 
ing these wreaths on commission once a year 
was not a lucrative profession, and the rest of her 
time and service was due Madame Lais for her 
food and clothing:. 


She entered the colored cemetery, and went 
down the broad central walk, Midway before 
her a black iron arch held a black iron cross 
high up against the evening sky. The tall, nar- 
row tombs on each side arose close together, 
almost touching. Were they really different from 
the tombs in the other cemetery, or did they 
only appear so to the morbid eye? They were 
not all black, nor all white, either, but mixed, 
like the people they enclosed, with interfusions, 
trimmings, and fleckings of one color upon the 
other, unconsciously sinister. And the nomen- 
clature on the tablets ! Such a different read- 
ing from the tablets in the other cemetery! 
Names, fictitious, assumed, composed, or stolen; 
some of them sounding sweet in the mouth, like 
the anonymes of poets and poetesses; some of 
them that might have answered at the roll-call 
of Charlemagne; some of them petting diminu- 
tives, like the names of birds and lapdogs; some 
of them catching the eye with their antique 
integrity, like bits of jewelry in pawn-shop win- 
dows. But all of them one-sided names. For 
the black that had tinged so many fair complex- 
ions, muddied the depths of so many clear eyes, 
and alloyed the expression of so many noble 
profiles, the black that had diverted the course 
of so many names and destinies — all that was 
nameless and unrecorded, barred out, like the 
pure black people themselves from this cemetery. 


Marie Madeleine sold her wreaths the length of 
the walk. The night promised so fair that over 
the society tombs draperies were being hung, in 
readiness for the morrow, the funeral trappings 
of a by-gone regality — black velvet palls, spotted 
with white tear-drops; old -fashion black hang- 
ings for the outside of houses, with profuse appli- 
cations of skulls and cross-bones ; and hearse and 
coffin ornaments borrowed from the undertaker. 

When she had sold her store out, she waded 
through the tall grass of a side path until she 
came to an isolated tier of vaults. As she had 
expected from the lateness of the hour, no one 
was there. Each one of all the square tablets 
in the rows carried its memorial — all except one. 
" Rosemond Delaunay " was the name it bore. 
Delaunay was the family name of Madame 

From under the paper at the bottom of her 
basket the girl took a bead medallion — the con- 
ventional tomb, weeping-willow, and weeping fig- 
ure. It bore the inscription, " A ma Mere." She 
held it for a moment in her hand. It seemed to 
weigh heavy, pulling her arm down, while she 
looked before her into vacancy. Returning to 
herself, by force of will, she hung the tribute on 
the nail fixed for that purpose in the tablet. The 
crumbling mortar loosed its hold, nail and medal- 
lion fell to the ground. 

" Pas ramassez li ! li tombe par terre ! Bon 


Die la oule !" (Do not pick it up ! It fell to the 
earth ! Good God wished it !) 

Before looking, Marie Madeleine recognized 
the voice of old Zizi Mouton, the occult terror of 
Madame Lais's life, reputed to be one of the " old 
people " who know everything. She was seated 
on the ground, her feet in the dry ditch ; an old, 
decrepit black negress; her face a bundle of 
wrinkles tied up in a head-kerchief ; the bright lit- 
tle black bead eyes seeming to draw the whole 
physiognomy in to some interior fastening. She 
pushed out her long stick, and held the medallion 
to the earth. " Pas ramassez li, mo dit toi ! Pas 
ramassez li !" 

The girl did what Madame Lais would have 
been afraid even to think. She pushed the stick 
aside, picked up her wreath and the nail, saying, 
in Creole : " Let me alone, Zizi !" 

" Hd, Madrilene ! Vie Zizi a raison ! Bon 
Die a raison !" (Old Zizi is right ! Good God is 
right !) 

Like all voudoos, old Zizi professed to be the 
oracle of God. Madrilene hammered the nail 
back into its place with a piece of brick, and hung 
the wreath up again, and stood hiding her face in 
her hands. 

The passers-by thought she was weeping or 
praying, as many others were doing around her, 
for these tombs, at this season, move the heart 
almost beyond control. 


The Strange gentleman who had ordered the 
flowers from her in the other cemetery, always 
walking behind her, always observing her, might 
have wished, as he stood there out of reach of 
her eye, to hide his face also, as the girl did, the 
thoughts that would intrude on a gentleman, not 
to say a moralist, like him in this cemetery being 
perhaps more comfortably entertained in solitude 
and silence, behind folded hands. 

After Marie Madeleine had walked well away, 
old Zizi prized herself up with hand and stick 
from the ground, tore the wreath from the nail, 
and beat the nail again out of its place, muttering, 
" Ah, Lais ! coquine !" 

When the old woman had left, the stranger ap- 
proached and studied the inscription on the tomb 
and the inscription on the bead memorial ; and 
then, still in pursuit of an object or an idea, walked 
out of the cemetery into the street, retracing his 
steps towards the other graveyard. 

Darkness had fallen after the short twilight. 
Those of the " marchands " and "marchandes" 
who had obtained advantageous positions against 
the wall were preparing to hold them by camping 
on the spot all night. Others were slowly bun- 
dling up their wares for a reluctant departure. 
The coffee-houses had gathered in and were hold- 
ing their noisy clients about them. Aboard the 
schooners in the basin, lighted fires began to show, 
flaming against the bottoms and sides of over- 



hanging caldrons, casting magic circles of red 
brightness around lounging groups of swarthy 
men. Through the gloom the evil night human- 
ity that haunt such spots could be seen beginning 
their quest for adventures and victims, and old 
Zizi Mouton, hobbling on her stick, was drop- 
ping, or pretending to drop, those voudoo charms 
which, picked up this night around the cemetery 
walls, were peculiarly potent for good or for evil. 

As he had accosted the sexton, the stranger 
accosted the old negress, and with the same in- 
quiry, " Who is this girl Madrilene ?" 

He had passed the girl on the street. She 
was leaning against a high board fence, her bas- 
ket on her head, unobservant to blindness from 
inward preoccupation. 

The voudoo did not need to be questioned 
twice. " Madrilene, eh ? And Madame Lai's !" 
She put her finger on her lip, and motioned the 
gentleman to follow her. 

There was one person to whom Marie Made- 
leine could lay bare her mind — Monsieur Sacer- 
dote. Those who dwell in the serene atmos- 
phere of prosperity and happiness know not the 
findings of sympathy, love, and devotion that lie 
in the murky depths of poverty and misfortune. 
But the tie that bound Marie Madeleine to Mon- 
sieur Sacerdote was hardly the human confed- 
eracy known as friendship. If one called it a 


religion, one would more fitly describe it. Was 
it not a thing of the soul with her? An aspira- 
tion, an inspiration, the semblance of a hope, the 
invisibility of a faith ? Where did she look for 
him when she sought him in her mind ? At her 
level ? On a platform of earthly elevation ? Or 
above her in those unattainable heights in which 
one must be born ? 

He was above her ; born above her. Oh, there 
was no doubt about that ! The most audacious, 
the most impudent, the most infuriated, the most 
drunken, the lightest of the light-colored, what- 
ever they might say, in their secret hearts, she 
knew, never disputed that the white are born 
above the black. 

Was not God white to them? The Saviour- 
white ? The Virgin white ? The saints, martyrs, 
angels, all white ? The people they read of in 
books, were they not all white ? And the people 
they saw on the stage ? Did the whites want to- 
change their whiteness for blackness ? Did the 
blacks want to change their blackness for white- 
ness ? However much they might despise old 
Fantome Sacerdote for his wretchedness, how- 
ever much they shunned him with superstitious 
terror, he was what they could never be, and he 
was of the color of those whom they worshipped. 
The deduction was very simple and easy to Marie 
Madeleine. When she looked at him she saw 
the originals of the pictures that hang in churches ; 


when she listened to him she heard them, and 
when she talked to him it was almost as if she 
were praying ; only the prayers to God, once 
learned, were always the same. What she told 
Monsieur Sacerdote were the ever-new accumula- 
tions, the constant drippings day by day from the 
invisible into an opening mind. Into the busy 
mind of a waif and stray about fifteen, however, 
thoughts do not drip, but flood in storming tor- 
rents, particularly about the time of All-Saints. 

The place where Monsieur Sacerdote passed 
his nights might have been blamed as being more 
insalubrious than where he passed his days. A 
high, close fence hid the interior from the curious 
eye, and a heavily bolted gate protected it from 
intrusion. The tall fence was responsible for 
some of the misery it hid, for the sun had a 
chance of entering that way at least. The damp- 
ness trickled down the sides of these high brick 
walls into the little enclosure as into a well, and 
from the street the green moss could be seen flour- 
ishing on the peaked roof of the low house, and 
planks had to be used to bridge the mud from 
the door-step to the gate. 

The superstition was not against the sexton's 
office — experience all over the city refuted that. 
It was against the man, about whose uncanny per- 
sonality the stories were never allowed to die out. 
He was even used as a reproach to the hovel that 
sheltered him, a hovel whose wretchedness and 


poor appearance should have rendered it below 
reproach ; and he was used not only as a reproach, 
but a missile of insult against Marie Madeleine, 
not only by Loulou in the street, but by Madame 
Lais at home, and by the malicious everywhere. 
What she suffered from her refusal to serve the 
lodgers was even less than what she suffered from 
her persistence in serving the sexton. 

Arrived at the gate with her empty basket, she 
did not attempt to make herself heard. That 
would have been a noisy process. She leaned, 
as usual, against the fence and waited. If Mon- 
sieur Sacerdote wished to let her in, he would 
come after a while and open the gate for her. If 
he did not, she would go on home. Is God re- 
quired to answer all prayers ? 

If he wished to see her, the taper floating in 
its glass of oil would soon be creeping along the 
plank walk to the gate. The rusty bolt would 
resist, and the rusty key would squeak, but, with 
her weight added to the outside, the gate would 
finally open, and the old man would say, "My 
child, come in." Fancy if God should speak out 
and call her "my child!" 

And then he would give her a book to read 
aloud to him — a book that for age could have 
been her grandparent, and she would read aloud 
to him in that beautiful reading he had taught 
her. No one suspected — Madame Lais least of 
all — that she could read. Because Madame Lais 

154 MADRIL^NE ; 

would never let her go to school, she thought that 
she would never learn to read. She had learned 
her alphabet from the tombstones, helping Mon- 
sieur Sacerdote in his work, during the first days 
of their friendship. In the cemetery the sexton 
would tell her about the people in the tombs, but 
in his little house he v/ould tell her about the 
people in books. When she would go home at 
night, her head would be filled with what she had 
read and what he had told her, and so she could 
stand Madame Lais — her tempers, her language, 
her atmosphere — her whole world, in fact. And 
while Madame Lais lay in her bed, and Madrilene 
lay on the floor, as in old times slaves lay in the 
sleeping chambers of their mistresses, her head 
would be lifted far, far above her surroundings 
by the ideas the books gave her. And when Ma- 
dame Lais would call her and wake her and treat 
her as, let us hope, few mistresses treated their 
slaves, it was still an affair of the body, and not 
of that soaring, inflated mind. It was those even- 
ings when she did not read aloud to Monsieur 
Sacerdote that the walls grimaced at her, and the 
days came back to torment her, and the close 
ladened atmosphere of the room suffocated her, 
and life took on terrific features. She would look 
far, far back in her memory for some help, but 
there was none. She would look far, far ahead 
in the future, and still there was none. Madame 
Lais behind and Madame Lais before her, and 


all about her the Africanized wall of Madame 
Lais's children and grandchildren. Better for 
her, fatherless, nameless, to be lying in the tomb 
with the husbandless Rosemond Delaunay than 
live with these husbandless, fatherless nieces and 
sisters of Rose'mond Delaunay. 

What desperations, what agonizing impoten- 
cies, did she not feel at these moments ! She was 
so ignorant, so brutalized, so blind ! 

No, evidently Monsieur Sacerdote was not go- 
ing to let her in this evening. She must go home. 
The nine o'clock bell was ringing. He never let 
her in after nine o'clock. 

Arrived at her street, she selected among the 
row of ill-kept, ugly-looking back doors that faced 
the cemetery the one that belonged to her home. 
As she was about to put her hand on the latch, 
it was lifted from the inside, and old Zizi Mou- 
ton, bending herself more double than ever, 
slipped out as noiselessly as a black cat, and 
nimbly ran down the banquette, in the opposite 
direction from Marie Madeleine. " She is prepar- 
ing some of her devilment," thought the girl. 
" She does not imagine that I have seen her." 

There was loud talking inside — Palmyre's 
voice. Madrilene waited with her hand on the 
latch, listening. 

Zizi Mouton, after her more than voluminous 
revelations, had conducted the stranger to the 


front door of the same house. It was as pomp- 
ous as its obverse was contemptible. The pla- 
card " Chambres Garnies " swung from the gal- 
lery at the end of a long wire, just over the heads 
of the banquette pedestrians. Here and there on 
the block other placards swung and fluttered — 
an ominous sign for the neighborhood. The ap- 
pearance of the first of such placards is the ap- 
pearance of a first taint spot in the value of 
property in a locality — a symptom of corruption, 
and the forerunner of depreciation. 

Chambres garnies mean different things to dif- 
ferent people, or shall we say, different minds. A 
furtive visit to an involved landlord or landlady 
by a hesitating, heavily veiled woman ; a high 
rent offered and guaranteed by the confidential 
communication and signature of some well-known 
name ; a new light thrown on some hitherto im- 
maculate character, or an old one rekindled from 
a smouldering scandal ; the hesitation on the 
part of the property-holder between putting an 
insult out-of-doors or putting it into the pocket 
— chambres garnies mean this to some. To others 
they represent only a comfortable system of lodg- 
ing where landlady and servant are harmoniously 
one ; where references are not required, and su- 
pervision is carefully abstained from ; where free- 
dom of movement and secrecy are guaranteed. 
To strangers they are attractive as repositories 
of romance, magazines of tropical poetry, studies 


of picturesque domesticities, a curious half-world, 
legitimized on the one side by prejudice, on the 
other by sympathy. 

A ring of the chambres garnies' bell fetches, after 
a long interval, a black boy or girl, scrubbing- 
brush in hand, thin, poorly clad, miserable-look- 
ing, as a negro must be who serves his or her 
own color: has it been said \\\z.\. chambres garnies 
are always exquisitely clean? 

A stranger would ask for Madame Brown or 
Madame Smith, but a townsman asks for Madame 
Lais, or maybe Lais. He then remains standing 
during another long interval, glancing around him. 

The hall and staircase are perfectly bare, ex- 
cept for the foot-fall-stilling drugget. The cham- 
bers, however, unless occupied, always stand open, 
advertising of their handsome interiors — the vel- 
vet carpets and damask curtains, the great bed- 
stead with lace-trimmed dressings, the arnioire a 
jjiiroir; the lavabo, with its fine porcelains and 
linens ; the biscuit statuettes and vases of paper 
flowers on the mantel. Interiors of a vague, un- 
defined, differentiating luxury, inexplicable, or it 
may be simply unexplicable. . . . 

A scraping rather than a rustling is heard in 
the upper regions — a scraping from skirts sharp- 
ened as weM as stiffened by unstinted starch. 
They scrape down the steps slowly, for Madame 
Lais is stout, and finally come to stillness and 
quietude before the expectant stranger. And 


he sees, if it is spring, summer, autumn, or winter, 
a long, loose, white " Gabrielle," with elaborate 
trimmings of ruffles and lace, that show the yellow 
neck and arms underneath, a yellow face, thickly 
dusted with white powder, and hair smoothed into 
a topknot with French heliotrope pomade, and a 
soft, fat face, whose values, not at first appreci- 
able, begin to make themselves felt as beauty by 
force of certain underlying suggestions. But 
what the stranger sees is infinitesimal in compar- 
ison with what Madame Lais sees. Her eyes 
have been trained to see as other eyes have been 
trained to shoot, and men, not boards, have been 
from time immemorial their target. AVhat Ma- 
dame Lais sees in a stranger decides in an instant 
whether she has a vacant room, the price of it, 
the price of laundry and personal services — serv- 
ing coffee in bed mornings, attendance when ill, 
etc. A great many apply for rooms to find them 
always filled. Some never apply without finding 
the best one vacant and at the disposition of 

If he likes the modus vivendi, it is very com- 
fortable for the stranger after he is once taken in 
by this or another Madame Lais. He rarely ever 
seeks other lodgings, and he will travel willingly 
year after year from one house to the other with 
his chambres garnies' hostess, who does not attach 
herself generally to buildings. He has his coffee 
punctually in the morning, and his mending and 


laundry without a remission. If he falls ill, he is 
nursed ; and it is safe to say no one in New Or- 
leans can nurse like Madame Lais — the tender- 
ness of a mother, the devotion of a slave, the del- 
icacy of a wife, the unflinching patience of a 
hospital Sister, all combined ! One never thinks 
of blushing before a Madame Lai's, or apologiz- 
ing. One has absolutely no self-consciousness 
with her. One can be or do what one pleases 
before her with surety. There is no shocking 
her. That makes, in short, the merit of her class, 
putting them as lodging-house keepers beyond 
competition and rivalry. And she is comely, too, 
and young; or at least her daughters are, or her 
granddaughters, or her nieces. She sometimes 
nurses the stranger through life to a good old 
age ; and when he dies, if he leaves anything — 
but he rarely leaves anything. If he does, how- 
ever, soon after the mortuary certificate there is 
generally a little testament produced, written very 
recently — produced by Madame Lais herself — a 
testament unknown of the expectant nieces and 
nephews. When they read this testament they 
thank God, perhaps, that there are no other docu- 
ments produced — only witnesses. When these last 
are forthcoming, it is a nine-days' talk in the 
scandal world, if the matter gets into court. And 
the disinherited nieces go to sewing or piano- 
playing for a living ; that is, if the family is of 
the city. If they Uve outside or in foreign parts, 


they are generally saved the pain of knowing 
anything beyond the fact of death — unless they 
are contentious and sceptical. And the hand- 
somely furnished chambers are always getting 
more handsomely furnished, and the petticoats 
are always getting stiffer, and the " Gabrielles " 
more elaborately trimmed, and the chatnhres gar- 
nies' granddaughters and nieces wear more and 
more jewelry, and drift, more and more of them, 
into salaried positions under the government. 
What Monsieur Sacerdote saw with his dull 
vision, Madame Lais could not fail to see : that 
this stranger who applied to her at nightfall for 
lodgings was not "that kind of a man:" a grave, 
sedate, middle-aged scholar, but with eyes, for the 
matter of that, that gathered as much in a glance 
as Madame Lais's. They were not, however, the 
eyes through which occupants of chambres garnies 
look at life, and his voice was not propitious. 

Her rooms were all full — unalterably, irrevoca- 
bly full ; not even a vacancy on the highest gal- 
lery, not even the bare closet he persisted in de- 

Madame Lai's regretted it very much in her 
voluble, frank, amicable way, telling of houses all 
around her where chambers were vacant ; not 
two doors off was a white lady, one of the best 
old Creole families, who took boarders. 

"Where is that loud talking?" questioned the 
stranger, inappropriately. 


" Those young girls amusing themselves in 
the yard," she answered, shrugging her large 

He listened with ill-concealed interest. 

Madame Lais opened the door to facilitate his 
departure, but sprang back in dismay from the 
exposed threshold. 

" Ah, misere ! Ah, grand Dieu ! Do not let 
them touch me ! Kick them away, monsieur ! 
For the love of God, kick them away with your 
foot !" She ran backward into the hall as far as 
the staircase, pointing with both hands to the 
spot where lay scattered a dozen or more minute 
paper parcels. "Ah! what is going to happen 
to me now ? It is that old voudoo ! It is that 
old Zizi Mouton ! My God, why does she not 
let me alone ? Kick them away, monsieur — kick 
them away !" 

At that instant a scream sounded through the 
long passage-way — a call. The woman turned 
and ran in the direction from whence it came, 
the man after her. 

Madrilene, outside the gate, listened to Pal- 
myre's voice rising louder and louder. 

" No one shall lay hands on my child ! I will 
kill any one who lays hands on my child ! My 
child is as good as any one !" 

They always use extreme threats, the colored. 
Madrilene had heard her rage in the same way 


against Loulou himself ; had she not, in fact, 
taken a hatchet to him more than once ? The 
best way was to leave her alone, to take no 
notice of her; let her talk herself out until ex- 
hausted, when she would throw herself down any- 
where upon the ground, upon the floor, and snore 
until daylight. Madrilene heard the others an- 
swering her, laughing at her. She knew, if they 
did that, Palmyre would keep it up all night ; 
Madame Lais herself could do nothing with her 
in that mood. 

" My child is as good as any one ! No one 
shall touch my child ! I will cut any one open 
who touches my child !" 

The men and women inside laughed again. 

They were exciting Palmyre. Fools ! Did 
they want her carried off by the police to the cala- 
boose, as she had been not so very long ago ? 
Madame Lais had to pay enough money for that 

" I will show you ! I will show you ! I will 
break every bone in her body ! The moment she 
comes in you will see ! Oh, I'll pay her !" 

The girl outside felt a thrill of terror. Would 
Palmyre dare, would she dare touch her ? Even 
Madame Lais had never dared that but once — 
the day, so long ago, when she had fled into the 
cemetery for refuge, the first clay she had ever 
seen Monsieur Sacerdote ; the day she had 
begged him to leave her with the good dead, the 


white dead. Would Palmyre dare touch her ? 
Would the others let her — that crowd of disor- 
derly men and women laughing and jeering in 
the yard ? And the cemetery was lock-fast now, 
and no Monsieur Sacerdote at hand ! 

" I will strip her naked ! I will stamp her ! I 
will make her howl !" 

She could run back, she could call, she could 
beat on the gate, and make herself heard of Mon- 
sieur Sacerdote ! But — but pass those drinking 
shops again ? Pass all those roistering men ? 
Go again through that dark alleyway ? She was 
afraid. Born and raised in the streets, she was 
afraid of them at night ; afraid of them at the very 
age when other colored girls frequent them. No, 
she was not afraid of Palmyre when she thought 
of the streets. Palmyre ? Palmyre was afraid 
of her. They all were afraid of her, even Ma- 
dame Lais. 

" I dare her to come in ! I dare her to open 
that gate ! I dare her like . . ." 

The girl shrank back involuntarily. Did Pal- 
myre suspect she was out there ? 

But this street was no place to stop in ; this 
gate was known ; any moment something might 
happen to a woman all alone at this gate, and no 
policeman anywhere, except, perhaps, drinking in 
the coffee-houses. 

" Low scum of the gutters ! Let me lay my 
hands on her ! She will wish she was dead !" 


A crowd of noisy men were coming along now, 
singing. They would think she was there pur- 
posely. Oh, she was afraid of men ! Afraid of 
them ? None of Madame Lais's family were 
afraid of men. Afraid of ghosts and voudoos .'' 
yes ; but men, no. And Madrilene was afraid of 
men, but not ghosts nor voudoos. The men were 
getting nearer and nearer, singing like firemen : 
firemen were the worst kind, or the men that fol- 
low firemen. In daylight her heart would jump 
and start if one looked at her. What was she 
afraid of ? What could they do to her ? She did 
not know ; only she was afraid, afraid. 

" Oh, I will make her dance !" 

They laughed inside at Palmyre's wit ! 

The men were passing now. They had seen 
her. They were all around her. She flattened 
herself against the gate. One pinched her arm, 
one pinched her cheek, one — Oh, better Pal- 
myre ! She pressed the latch ; the gate fell open 
with her weight ; she was inside ! 

" Ha ! There she is ! Ha !" 

"Palmyre, do not dare touch me !" she cried. 

Dare ? Dare .'' Oh, better the men outside 
than these blows, these scratches, this tearing of 

" Do not dare ! do not dare !" she kept calling. 
She was still at the gate ; she could still gain the 
street. She was almost outside. 

" I will strip you first !" 


Her sacque was torn with one jerk from her 
body. Pahnyre had her safe enough now inside. 
Could the others not in the darkness see the 
blows descending upon her .'' Could they not 
hear them through the cursing and swearing that 
accompanied them .-' Did they not know that 
Palmyre carried a knife in her bosom — she car- 
ried her bosom naked enough for them to see it. 
Madrilene sprang from under the heavy arms of 
Palmyre to the steps, to the gallery above. Oh, 
if the lattice were only away, she could spring 
into the street below ! 

" I will catch you ! I will cut you open !" 

"Plelp! help!" 

The naked fleshy mass crowding her, the blows, 
the darkness, the epithets, the hot puffing breath, 
the odor. " Help ! help !" She felt the knife. It 
was cutting — cutting ! " Help ! help !" She knew 
not herself what her lips were screaming. It was 
a crucifrcial cry, an alarm not from herself, but 
from something within her driven to voice by ex- 
tremity of pain and humiliation. " Help ! help ! 
Negroes are murdering a white girl in here ! 
Help! help!" 

It was a cry to awaken the dead in the ceme- 
tery over there, to raise and arm a mob, to para- 
lyze the fist over her, to paralyze her own lips — 
an unheard-of, an unknown, an uncodified cry, 
an unrepeatable one 1 She heard the air car- 
rying it out high over the street, shrill, quaver- 

l66 MADRILilNE ; 

ing, forking a sudden, jagged course like light- 
ning, rebounding from high walls, echoing in 
hollow alleyways, leaving behind it one dark, 
still, stark, void moment of suspense— and armis- 

Then hearing, clotted with the answers, the 
sound of voices, the tramp of running feet, open- 
ing of doors, banging of windows. " Hold on ! 
We are coming ! we are coming ! Hold on !" 
Far off in whispers, near at hand in shouts. "We 
are coming! we are coming!" 

She had fallen. It was dark before her eyes 
when they came, but she saw them : heads, heads, 
heads, row behind row — dishevelled coffee-house 
heads, glossy parlor heads, " dago " heads tied in 
handkerchiefs, firemen heads under helmets, the 
heads of the men who had pinched her cheek and 
arm, and women's heads, with open, screaming 
mouths. She had summoned a race to her res- 
cue ; they had come ! How the floor trembled 
when Palmyre was flung upon it ! 

Away off, Madame Lais's head ; behind her, 
the head of the stranger who had ordered flowers 
from Madeleine in the cemetery ; behind him, old 
Zizi Mouton's head ; behind, behind, the head of 
Monsieur Sacerdote. And the dead were com- 
ing, too, from the cemeter}' — the good dead, the 
white dead. Far up above the ceiling she saw 
lights and flying bodies — all white ! all white ! 
White faces and white gowns, with paper wreaths 


of her own manufacture, dressed for the morrow's 
festival. They had come at her cry ; they, too ! 
they, too ! 

What noise — what confusion down below ! In 
the room, on the gallery, in the yard, on the 
street. What cursing ! What threats, threats, 
threats ! Voices, leaping higher and higher in 
the effort to be heard, reaching her, and dragging 
her down to earth again. 

" Is she killed ?" " Hold the woman !" " Fling 
her to us !" " Tie her hands !" " Drag her out !" 
" Secure the knife !" " Police ! Police !" " No 
police ! No police !" " Fling her to us !" " A 
doctor !" " The coroner !" 

All quiet and beautiful around her, up there by 
the ceiling. So sweet ! so soft ! But she was 
pulled down like a balloon to where the loud 
tongues of Palmyre's sisters had rallied for ready 

" Madrilene didn't do anything !" " Madrilene 
didn't slap Loulou !" " That she-devil Palmyre !" 
" I wish to God she was dead !" " I told her 
so !" " I held her back !" " And I !" " And I !" 
" And I !" " Loulou is rotten !" " Loulou rides 
over us all!" "Tell the truth, Madrilene!" 
" Tell the God's truth !" " See, she can't talk !" 
" She's fainted !" " She's dead !" " Palmyre cut 
her !" " Palmyre has no business carrying a 
knife !" " I tried to take it away !" " And I !" 
" And I !" " She's not the first girl Palmyre has 


cut !" "And she's won't be the last, I tell you !" 
" Here's the police !" " Here's the doctor !" 
" Lift her up, so he can get at her !" 

It was the stranger who lifted her up. Some 
one — old Zizi Mouton — threw an apron over her 

A groan of rage fell from the crowd at the sight 
of the beaten girl's face. Tempers became uglier, 
more menacing ; the shrill voices of Palmyre's 
sisters more pressing, more anxious. 

" She's only pale !" " She's not white !" " No, 
sir, she's not white !" " She's a nigger !" " She's 
no more white than me !" " She's told a lie !" 
" Before God, she's not white !" " We are all 
niggers !" " It's only a quarrel between niggers !" 
"Niggers will fight!" "No, sir! Palmyre wouldn't 
touch a white person ! Palmyre's no fool !" " Ma- 
drilene's our cousin !" " She is Madame Lais's 
niece !" They all called their mother Madame 
Lais ; it is one of the arrangements of their class. 
" Madrilene knows she is the daughter of Rose- 
mond Delaunay !" " She is buried in the colored 
cemetery!" "I can show you her tomb !" "Ev- 
erybody knows it !" " Ask anybody !" " Ask 
Madame Lais !" " Ask Madrilene herself !" And 
the chorus recommenced : " Tell the truth, Ma- 
drilene !" " Tell the God's truth !" 

She struggled to find the ground with her feet, 
to put away the crowd, to say one word. They 
would all go away then. All — those around her. 


those up there. They thought she was white — 
white like themselves. Would the quadroon- 
faced come when they went away ? The white 
garments with quadroon faces and hands ? 

"I — I — I am — I am not — I only — called — the 
knife !" 

If she could only push the words between her 
lips ! But they burst on her tongue like bubbles. 
She felt them, the words, in her hands ; if she 
could only shove them where all would see them ! 
But they weighed down her arms like the bead 
chaplet in the cemetery. If Palmyre only had 
not been so strong ! 

Her head fell over on the stranger's shoulder 
and her eyes closed, and she began again to as- 
cend, far, far above them all, where the white 
forms were still waiting for her as if she, too, were 
white. But still the voices from earth reached 
her 4nd held her stationary. If some one would 
only cut the voices, and let her rise— rise never 
to come back again ! 

" She wanted to talk !" " See how well she 
looks !" " She's only weak !" " She's been bleed- 
ing!" "Hush! She hasn't been cut at all!" 
" She fell over a hatchet !" " He, Madrilbne, how 
do you feel, chere .?" " Madrilene, did you get the 
dinner I saved for you in the kitchen ?" " I tried 
to help you, didn't I, chere ?" " See, she hears 
me !" " Madrilene, you remember, don't you, 
Toinette tried to help you?" "Yes, she nodded 


her head." " I never did have any use for Pal- 
myra !" " Palmyre's temper's too quick." " I 
love Madrilene like my sister." " Madrilene al- 
ways loved me." " Who-o-o ! look at all the po- 
lice !" The words caused a scramble. " Here, 
let me go!" " Let me get away, quick !" " For 
God's sake, don't take me !" " I had nothing 
to do with it!" "I wasn't even in the yard!" 
" I never laid eyes on Palmyra and Madrilene 
all this day !" " I swear to you I have bean 
dressing the tomb of my grandmother !" " I 
came in with the crowd !" " Madrilene knows 
nobody was here but her and Palmyre !" " Ma- 
drilene could talk well enough if she wanted to !" 
" There's nothing the matter with her !" " Pal- 
myre barely touched her !" " Take Palmyre ; she 
was the only one !" "Take Madrilene !" " Ma- 
drilene commenced it !" " Madrilene had no 
right to beat Palmyre's child !" " He was doing 
nothing to her !" " Madrilene drew the knife 
first !" " I saw her do it !" " I swear I saw her 
do it !" " Palmyre was only funning !" " Pal- 
myre only did it to frighten her !" " She's not 
hurt !" " She's only making out !" " Madame 
La — is !" " Oh, Madame La — is, they're taking 
me !" " Madame La — is I" " Where's Madame 
Lais ?" " She was here a moment ago !" " She 
ran back to hide !" " She ran back to lock up !" 
" That's right, Palmyra, you fight !" " Don't go 
with them!" "They've no right to take you!" 


" You let me alone !" " Take your hands off 
me !" " I won't go with you !" " Go to the 
devil !" " I won't go to jail !" " I wo — n't go 
to jail !" "Madame Lais, oh, Madame Lais, they 
are taking me to jail !" The women could be 
heard far down the street, drawing a procession 
after them. 

The police tried to question the girl. She could 
not answer. They questioned the stranger. He 
gave them his name and address ; he had heard 
threats, suspected rascality, etc. They questioned 
Monsieur Sacerdote, hallooing to make him hear. 

" They have found Madame Lais ! They are 
arresting her !" 


" She won't come. They are dragging her 


" What does this mean ? What are you doing 
here ? What are all these people doing in my 
yard ?" 

Madame Lais held her head thrown back, just 
as during the war, when she was a little girl, she 
remembered seeing her mistress, old Madame 

, throw her head back when invading soldiers 

entered her house, and she talked to the white 
people about her and the police not as if they 
were soldiers, but negroes. 

" I order you to quit these premises on the in- 
stant ? W^here is the girl ? What is the matter 

172 MADRILi;NE ; 

with her ? What does she mean by screaming in 
that manner ? Here, give her to me. Let me 
attend to her." 

She put forward her hands to take Madrilene 
from the stranger ; he put them aside, and felt 
that they were wet with perspiration and colder 
than Madrilene's. Her lips were trembling, too, 
in spite of her efforts, and her face — quadroons 
do not get white, they blacken for pallors — 
black spots settled around Madame Lais's mouth, 
under her eyes, on her cheeks. In her assur- 
ance she was white ; in her fear she was all 

" What are you doing here ? What have you 
to do with that girl ? What is this man doing 
here ?" she demanded of the police. " It is an 
intrigue ; it is — " 

Old Zizi Mouton, crouching out of sight be- 
hind the stranger, plucked his sleeve, and whis- 
pered, " Send her to the calaboose with the oth- 

Madame Lai's shook the policeman's hand off 
her arm. It was an arm that had become accus- 
tomed to light handling. For a moment she 
looked the enraged quadroon, like her daughter 

" Do not dare touch me ! I will complain to 
the Governor ! I will complain to the Mayor ! 
I will see the chief of police ! I will have you 
discharged ! I will sue for damages 1" 


" Have her arrested. Send her to the cala- 
boose," whispered Zizi Mouton. 

" I have money ! 1 have friends who will pro- 
tect me ! General , Collector , Major 

, Colonel , Dr. , Judge , Sen- 
ator , Mr. ." 

The police themselves fell back at her re- 
sources of money and influence. The women in 
the mob laughed. 

"Oh, the old rascals!" "Oh, that Lais!" 
" Eh, mon Dieu ! let me go home after that !" 
"You heard the names, heirs?" "Lord! Lord! 
Lord !" " Send her to the calaboose." Zizi Mou- 
ton plucked the stranger's arm as well as his 

" I dare you to arrest me ! I dare you!" But 
even in the prospect of success, assurance de- 
serted the quadroon, and fear, the ugly, gibber- 
ing African fear, took possession of her. " Sir," 
she pleaded to the stranger, "you were with me 
at the time. You know I was not here. For 
God's sake, don't let them arrest me. It will ruin 
me. The property of the boarders lies unpro- 
tected in my rooms. My house has never been 
visited before by the police. I will furnish bond. 
I — Take Palmyre ! Punish her ! Take the 
girl. Do what you please with her. Take her ! 
take her !" Her mind was in a panic. God only 
knew what she feared. 

The crowd made suggestions. " She is afraid 


they will search her house !" " She is afraid her 
boarders will be coming in !" " They are gentle- 
men who do not like to get their names in the 
papers !" " There might be sensations !" " It 
will be all up with her then !" 

" What are you afraid of ? Do you think I am 
going to run away ?" continued Madame Lais. 
That must have been it, for the police hemmed 
her in, and held her arms, and looked in her 
face, and the stranger made no sign of interven- 
tion in her favor. 

" You want my name ? Here it is." 

Ah, she had a choice of names. She had only 
to put her hand out and take from the commu- 
nity. Who could contradict or deny were they 
graven all over her, as they were over the tomb- 
stones in the colored cemetery ? But, in extrem- 
ity though she was, she was discreet. She gave 
a name de circonsfafice. She would save the oth- 
ers for the great emergency. 

" What is the name of the girl ?" 

" The name of the girl .? Let her give her own 
name. She can talk." 

She was slowly coming to assurance again. 

" Make her give the name or send her to the 
calaboose." Zizi Mouton jostled and shook the 
stranger's arm, 

" Everybody knows her name — Madrilbne, or 
Marie IVIadeleine, if you will." 

" Marie Madeleine what?" 


"Marie Madeleine ^ — nothing," shrugging her 
shoulders. They must understand that, these 

" White or colored ?" 

A routine question — mere formality, police eti- 
quette. But that scream! What made the girl 
scream that ? She had often enough been asked 
the question, for the girl was light-colored, and 
Lais had answered it glibly. She had been asked 
about one or two of her own children. What 
made Madrilene scream that ? What made her 
scream it ? Who put it in her head ? What was 
that stranger doing there ? Could he be — And 
old Fantome Sacerdote ? Fantome Sacerdote, he 
knew her of old — knew her as well as the Collect- 
ors and Senators and other official military and 
civil dignitaries. And the time was passing. Her 
house must be silent, dark, discreet by midnight. 

" White or colored ?" the officer of police re- 
peated, pencil and note-book in hand. 

Who was that stranger ? . . . White ? Oh no ! 
Say Madrilene was white ! before that crowd ! 
There was Madrilene herself. " Col — " 

Whence came that lean, crooked, bent, black 
figure on the floor in front of her ? a little bent 
black figure with brilliant snake eyes, and a raised 
stick of curling, tAvisting, coiling vines like snakes. 

Had the room only been dark that Madame 
Lais could not have seen it ! But they were still 
fetching in lamps, candles — lights from every- 


where. She opened her mouth again to answer, 
and she inflated her breast ; her tongue was dry 
— a bone — and her breast too heavy to move. 
She lifted her head again and again. Always that 
voudoo stick raised before her eyes ; always those 
voudoo eyes fastened on her face. Why, a glance 
from them blighted ! Spells flew around them 
like candle bugs ; she was sending them in swarms 
now over her : Lais ! 

White powders and black powders, babies' 
bones and snake eggs, and those hideous hobgob- 
lins of chicken feathers that come in pillows and 
mattresses, rooster combs and crossed keys, the 
herbs and grasses, the signs and symbols that 
haunt the day; and the black June nights, the 
flame of spirits, the coiled serpent, the writhing 
dance of naked black forms, the orgiac round 
circling in and out of shadows and light, the cast- 
ing away of clothes of decency, the " tam tarn " of 
the gourd drums, and the monotonous chant — 
Lais saw them all in the floor before her, and the 
omnipotence of the " Evil One," and the omni- 
science of the " old people," and the patient vin- 
dictiveness of old Zizi Mouton, setting, setting, 
hatching vengeance year after year, and blackness 
and fear rolling over and ingulfing her. She felt 
her eyes grow haggard, her limbs shake. " My 
God! My God!" She beat the air with her 
nerveless hands. 

But the devil, the god of Zizi Mouton, he was 


the Stronger god. Lais felt that ; she knew that ; 
now, here. The god of the negro against the God 
of the white man ! — voudooed ! voudooed ! vou- 
dooed ! 

And the burden in the stranger's arms — it rose 
stiff and stark before her. Was that death in the 
long, thin, white face ? Ah, she got white when 
she paled ; they could all see that. Were those 
staring eyes gazing into eternity.'' At God, or at 
her, Lais ? Was that tall, thin, pale white woman 
Madrilene, her servant, her drudge .'' Was it 
rigor mortis that held that bruised arm extended, 
pointing, pointing at her, Lais, those staring eyes 
looking at her, those opened falling lips ? Had 
Palmyre been voudooed, too, to commit murder? 
Had Zizi Mouton brought the gallows, too, to Lais 
— the gallows and hell, burning, flaming hell ? 

"Colored.? No, no! White! White, I tell 
you ! Do you hear me ? White ! Take that 
woman away ! Take her away ! Voudoo ! Snake- 
charmer ! African !" 

Zizi flung Madril^ne's black and white bead 
memorial on the floor before the quadroon. 

" No, no ! Take her away ! She is not the 
daughter of Rosamond Delaunay ! My God ! my 
God !" She fell her length, with hysterical wail- 

*' Eh, Lais, coquine ! Ta pd paye', chere !"' (Ah, 
Lais, rascal ! I have paid you up !) 

In the long-worked-for moment of triumph, Zizi 


Mouton renounced her supernatural pretensions 
in favor of enjoyment of human revenge. 

" The 'coon gets ahead of the nigger when she 
is young, but the nigger lives long, and gets even 
with the 'coon at last. Didn't I tell you the truth, 
monsieur ?" To the stranger. " I was there when 
the gentleman died. I knew she was his child. 
But I waited — I waited ! Ah, Lais, coquine, you 
took my man — hein ? Ta pe paye, chere !" 

" White ! White !" Oh, the other cry was 
nothing to this ! That one filled a street, this 
one the world ! White ! It joined past to fut- 
ure. It lifted a being from one race to another. 
But it fell like the weakest sigh, this cry from the 
lips of Madrilene. This time she did not rise 
in her unconsciousness ; she sank down, down, 
through sightlessness, dumbness, deafness, to 

" Get her to a bed quick !" 

" Not in there !" Zizi Mouton arrested them at 
the door of Madame LaiVs room. " In the fine 
front room! In the fine front bed! Madame 
Lais knows why. White young ladies do not 
sleep in the bed of negroes." The old voudoo 
led them to the bed herself; she undid the 
girl's garments, flinging the head-kerchief aside. 
" Eh, Lais ! White young ladies do not wear 
tignons like negroes ! He, monsieur ! I knew 
— I knew all the time, but I waited. Send for 
the doctor ; he will know, he will remember. Ask 


Fantome Sacerdote ; he will remember ; he buried 
him. Rosemond Delaunay, ha ! Who said that ? 
Madame Lais !" Sucking the words like sugar 
between her toothless gums. " Ah, Lais, coquine, 
ta pe paye, chere !" 



^T was a little ugly brick church, and 
H it had been built out of a little ugly 
brick house — a cheap, made-over con- 
cern. There was hardly a new brick, 
a new nail, or a hodful of new mortar 
in it. What could possibly be made use of had 
been left standing. Of what had been torn down, 
the bricks were cleaned, the mortar pulverized 
and sifted, and the nails extracted from the joists 
and beams : such a spirit of economy reigned in 
the erection that even the broken pieces of slate 
from the roof were trimmed and put in a pile by 
themselves, to use, instead of breaking up a new 
one, to fill up a corner or end a row. 

The little dago girl from the end of the block 
was the indefatigable observer of it all, as if she 
wanted to learn the process, and apply it herself, 
too, one of these days to the changing of a house 
of the devil into a house of the good God. For 
that it was a house of the devil no one in the 
length and breadth of the town had much doubt 


— one of those consular buildings of a great 
potentate who never fails to provide a representa- 
tive in every town. The village must be very 
small and insignificant indeed, and blessed, where 
there are not more than one of these official resi- 
dents, and the villagers not enterprising, or pro- 
gressive, as the word goes. 

The neighbors had complained of the house, 
the servants had gossiped about it ; the very gar- 
bage man, looking as if he himself had been fish- 
ed out of the garbage of humanity for the office, 
grumbled that he had to add its leavings to the 
reeking contents of his cart, and when he could, 
neglected it, thus insuring a further malodor to 
the precincts ; for, as he reasonably explained to 
any one who would listen to him, as if corrobo- 
rating also a questionable fact about himself, half 
drunk as usual, on account of his profession, " I 
is a man, if I does drive a dirt-cart." 

As everything was used in the building which 
could be used, and very little carried away, and 
as the former building had been bought at a great 
bargain, having, it seems, depreciated the value of 
the land upon which it stood and the tone of the 
surrounding neighborhood, the conclusion was in- 
evitable to the little girl that God was not invest- 
ing much money in the affair, perhaps because 
He had not much to invest. It was a financial 
condition which Marianna understood better than 
any other, for the oyster and orange trade slack- 


ened at times to a degree where there seemed to 
be no cohesion left, and dago life almost hung 
on one cent more or one banana less to the price, 
and the street could hardly contain the amount of 
Sicilian patois expended to obtain either, when 
the little Marianna with her nursling was forced 
to wander abroad for the ordinary peace and 
comfort necessary to the human mind, dago or 
otherwise. It was in this way she saw so much 
of the building of the church, and found out 
that money was as scarce in heaven as on 

" When will it begin to be a church ?" she ques- 
tioned herself. The foundations were laid down 
and the walls went up, but in no manner differ- 
ent from an ordinary dwelling or shop, and no- 
wise more churchly. It was evidently to be a 
sudden transformation. Afraid of missing the 
critical moment, she was at her post, a door-step 
opposite, in rain or shine, as regularly as the brick- 
layers were at theirs, persistently looking : thanks 
to the baby's constitution, she could do it. If it 
had been any other baby it would have died long 
ago, of croup, or colic, or such great broad teeth, 
or ennui, or over-dieting on bananas ; but fortu- 
nately there had been no mistake — a regular dago 
baby had been sent to the dago family ; one with 
black hair and black eyes, and an orange skin 
that grew out of dirt into cleanliness like an or- 
ange, and demanded (not that it would have got 


it for the demand) no expenditure in the way of 

" How did the workmen know God wanted a 
church built?" "Who paid them ?" " Who gave 
them orders ?" " Were the workmen who built 
churches different from the workmen who built 
dago houses, for instance ?" " Did they feel 
they were building a church?" "If they didn't 
build it well, what happened to them ?" Marian- 
na's mind was constantly occupied with such in- 
terrogatories. It was a Sicilian mind, and had 
not been subjected to the tamperings of educa- 
tion or religion, although public schools offered 
the one in every district of the city, and churches 
in every parish begged to distribute the other. 

Suddenly one day the cross was put upon it, a 
gray painted wooden cross ; and then the build- 
ing became a church as quick as a flash of light- 
ning. One moment before it might have been 
taken for a warehouse or a tall stable ; but now 
there could be no mistake. The cross said it all, 
and said it well. It was the crown of thorns 
which changes the face of a simple sufferer into 
the face of a Saviour. It was the door-plate 
which tells who lives within, and the child sanc- 
tified the edifice in her mind accordingly, and, 
ugly or little, saw not its proportions nor de- 
fects henceforth. 

As for the church itself, if it had not been a 
church it must have felt shamed, humiliated, de- 


graded. Not only made of second-hand material, 
but completed in such niggardly fashion that with 
the exception of the dago cabin, the Chinese 
laundry, and the locksmith's shop, it was the 
meanest house on the block. The boarding- 
house opposite was a palace in comparison, the 
freedmen's drinking saloon at the corner more 
imposing ; as for the drinking saloons for the 
fashionables, on the fashionable street, the paper- 
ing of one of them alone would have paid for the 
church and the ground underneath, not to men- 
tion the mirrors, pictures, marbles, and cellars. 

In fact, the little church could look nowhere 
from the elevation of its cross and not find in- 
deed that, judging from appearances, God was 
the very poorest person in all that neighborhood. 
There were club-houses around the corner the 
initiation fee of which alone was a minister's sal- 
ary, and beyond the club-houses the grand bric-a- 
brac shops, the milliners' shops, where the body is 
clothed and beautified at such a price that the 
merest trifles on the counter are doubled in value 
to pay for the grandeur of being sold there ; and 
still, beyond all this the cross could penetrate and 
see other expenditures and displays : it is better 
to imitate the ignorance of the little girl, and not 
enumerate them. What would become of little 
girls in a great city if God did not frustrate the 
devil by limiting their comprehension ? for the 
prince of darkness holds no intercourse with fools. 


But the cross did see it all, and the little 
church, if any knowledge of its pre-existence sur- 
vived in its brick and timber, must have thrilled 
with joy to think that the cross did stand on top 
of it at last — stood up there to watch and to see, 
aye, and be seen too, a sign as well as a symbol 
of regeneration. 

If the church could feel this, and the very 
wooden cross on top, what must the parson have 
felt ! He was small too, so small that he certain- 
ly could not have carried his heart, not one day's 
work of it, around inside his cassock. He was 
insignificant - looking, and as pale as a white- 
washed house which the owners cannot afford to 
paint. He looked somehow second-hand too, 
something thrown away from a different use and 
picked up cheap, a made-over sinner. To judge 
from his appearance, he also was small recom- 
mendation of his employer. Any of the hand- 
some, well - dressed gentlemen in the boarding- 
house opposite would have made more creditable 
ministers ; or any of the clerks in the bar-rooms, 
for bar - rooms are more particular about their 
ministrants than churches are. Three-fourths of 
the men who thronged the bar-rooms were better 
equipped physically even when they came home 
at night, some of them stumbling against the 
electric-light poles. As for the clerks in the oth- 
er shops, they were better dressed and better cared 
for than the Reverend Herbert Sting, or they would 


not have been employed there. Even his name 
was about the poorest and least attractive in all 
the catalogue of human appellations, as well as 
the most inappropriate, he having wandered far 
away from any inheritance of those qualities which 
made it a complimentary ancestral title. When 
people had objected to his size, figure, color of 
his hair, expression of his face, accent, nose, eyes, 
clothes, and walk, they filed one more protest 
against the whole business and connection by, if 
they were women, condemning the incongruous 
name of Sting. But he did not recognize this in 
the least. He was as unconscious of the objec- 
tions against his name as the little Marianna was 
of the objections against her neighborhood. He 
pursued his way as indomitably as if he had been 
called St. Paul or St, Augustine, or the British 
peerage rifled to celebrate his aristocracy. 

We all know, though the little girl did not, 
whence the money and directions came for the 
new church building. The primal source, if di- 
vine, was a little mixed. The congregation of 
the parish, through its official mind, the vestry, 
had gradually found out that their church was 
simply doing a breaking business ; that while the 
new theatre, started on a venture next door, was 
paying dividends on its investment, while new 
and varied shops multiplied and throve all around, 
while each establishment could pay and did pay 
for its scores of clerks, its light, full wear and 


tear, and patronage on the increase, their vener- 
able granite edifice had to confess to a precarious 
income and a diminishing membership, not in a 
month fetching as many to a sermon as went in 
one evening to the ballet, not in a year taking in 
all its alms-basins as much as went into the till 
of the least patronized saloon of them all in a 
month. They could not, do what the financiering 
vestry would, make the two ends meet — the debt 
and credit ends — without a break in the middle 
to sprout out in another cancerous debt. And so 
the fact was no longer to be disguised that the 
old church, which had risen out of the early virt- 
ues, was slowly sinking under the later vices of 
the city — sinking as surely as at one time it was 
believed all stone buildings would sink and dis- 
appear in the marshy soil of the place. They 
reduced and reduced the salary of the minister 
until living within it was a feat of prestidigita- 
tion ; they lowered and lowered the gas bill until 
service became an effort of memory ; as for fires, 
the zeal of devotion was all the guarantee the 
blood could obtain against rheumatism, neural- 
gia, and catarrh ; and then, when these measures 
had also reduced the congregation and certified 
the financial failure, they determined to sell the 
church and transport the proceeds of the whole 
establishment into a more progressive, enterpris- 
ing district, to plant their cross where souls 
would not only come to be saved, but pay for it. 


As for the vicious souls round about who had 
neglected their opportunities and obligations, 
they were to be left quietly behind in the evacu- 
ation, to make what terms they could with the 

After a little advertisement and judicious puff- 
ing the old church was sold — all sold, with the 
ground it stood upon ; its outfit and its infit too, 
though this was not mentioned in the deed of 
transfer. Its consecration, its dedication, the pi- 
ous will of the old gentleman who had bequeathed 
the lots to the parish, its memories and associa- 
tions, its spirits of dead ministers who had read 
and preached from its pulpit, with the spirits of 
dead congregations who had sat under them in 
the pews ; the graces strengthened by confirma- 
tion, the hungers stilled by the Lord's Supper, the 
marriage troths plighted at the altar, the baptis- 
mal vows taken at the font, and the cold dark place 
in front where the dead rested one moment more 
in church, amid life, to hear once more the prom- 
ise of resurrection, ere they went their way to the 
tomb to await its fulfilment — all sold, with the 
roofing and flooring and guttering, the glass and 
slate and gas fixtures. 

" Sold out of house and home on account of 
failure in business," the Saviour like any one 

Walking around the banquette which had once 
encircled the church, day after day, night after 



night — for the spot had a fascination for him — 
the Reverend Herbert had strange thoughts and 
fancies, particularly at night, the unreal thoughts 
and fancies that spring from unknown seed in 
the virgin soil of a young mind. 

Did not the stars hanging so low over the 
low fiat city, threatening to fall with their v.feight 
and brightness into it — did not the stars miss the 
tall square steeple which thrust itself up among 
them, and made of them jewels to ornament its 
weather-beaten head ? And the moon, shedding 
its benefaction of light over all buildings alike, 
good and bad, humble and rich, did it, in the mo- 
notonous expanse of roofs and chimneys, look 
for the peaks and gables which it must have been 
a delight to gild and beautify ? The sun, rising 
damp and red from the marsh, had always sent 
its first rays over them, and its last also, as like 
a great fire-ball it sank hot and dry into the river. 
The atmosphere, once ploughed by the vigorous 
bell, had closed in over the space now, and rip- 
pled with many sounds and noises, but none 
which could have rejoiced it like the brazen 
clang which seemed to dissipate the clouds of 
rainy Sundays and dominate the violent thunder. 

The little minister could always see the church, 
however, a ghastly, airy structure, hovering over 
the old foundations in purified resurrection, and 
he loved to think he could see, though he knew 
he could not, the figure of the ancient proprietor, 



wandering around his alienated domain incog- 
nito like some deposed, ill-treated heir, without 
rancor, but in all love and forgiveness looking 
after those interests connected with his property, 
those entailed possessions which could not be 
sold or bartered without his consent : a little sing- 
ing beggar-girl, a gambling newsboy, a desperate 
v/oman, or an unprincipled man — the outcast, the 
cripple, the inebriate. Wherever he imagined 
this white - clad, barefooted visitor going, there 
went Herbert. He bent over what he saw Him 
bend over, he touched what he saw Him touch, 
he spoke what he heard Him utter. He accom- 
panied Him into places where none but He and 
the police could go with impunity, and he minis- 
tered with Him at times when no police could 
have been paid to remain. He never faltered in 
thought or deed. In truth, if all the wickedness 
in the world had been stored for deposit in Her- 
bert's heart, he could not have known more about 
it, been less shocked at it, and if he himself had 
invented all loathsome diseases of the soul and 
body, he could not have more readily applied the 
antidote or suggested the alleviation. 

Indeed, in the delirium of agony sufferers 
would sometimes take him, the accessory, for his 
principal, and so hail and bless him, notwith- 
standing the contradiction of his threadbare 
clothes and homely features. 

As he saw the old church pulled down, the idea 


came to Herbert that another one must be built 
in the place of it. The idea came not only to 
him, but to all those who could not afford to ride 
in the cars to the desirably progressive locality 
selected by the vestry for the new church ; to 
all those who had attached themselves like cats 
to the old locality, for romantic reasons, over 
which they, like cats, have no control ; to all the 
constitutional kickers against authority, civil or 
religious ; to all lukewarm enemies or lukewarm 
friends of the empirical vestry; to the Sunday- 
school children who felt perhaps, and were, more 
aggressive than all. The idea came to a suffi- 
cient variety and number to warrant co-operation 
in an effort, and the effort was sufficiently vigor- 
ous to bring from an idea into being the identi- 
cal little church of this story. 

It is almost as much labor to destroy as to 
build a church. They could not shoot it down 
with cannon, they could not burn it down in the 
good old way. The carpenters did the best they 
could, poor men, with their peaceable instruments 
and peaceable hearts, reversing the natural order 
of their profession, travelling down from the top- 
most spire of the steeple, prizing out posts, chis- 
elling out bricks, brick by brick, down to the 
foundation. The first tap of the hammer sound- 
ed to poor Herbert like a slap on a dead giant's 

It was all so solid, so massive, the plan was so 


perfect, the materials so good, the workmanship 
so honest! If it had only been a prosperous 
church it might have lasted ages. Nothing would 
totter, nothing would fall, nothing would even 
shake itself loose ; it was a unanimous position 
of resisting protest, passive stability : " I can be 
destroyed, but I cannot surrender." 

At last it was all taken down, and the dismem- 
bered parts buried, contractors only knew where, 
second-hand stuff from churches fetching no 
higher price than from any other edifice. The 
space was cleared and swept, and with bright new 
material a grand circus was erected in it, a show 
and a wonder to the banquette idlers. The ring 
was described in what had been the body of the 
church, the trapezes hung from the ceiling, the 
orchestra sat in the old altar. Through the doors 
on the side, where surpliced boys and ministers 
used to march singing, the horses pranced and 
clowns tumbled and velocipede girls whirled. A 
grand novelty circus, so it was, a magnificent cir- 
cus, and patronized by such numbers that man- 
agers and performers were not only paid, but mu- 
nificently paid, and were making a happy fortune 
out of it. So much so that if the church people 
had only had the wit to do themselves that which 
they had sold out for others to do, they would 
have been able to construct a grand cathedral in 
the new fashion locality, and paid people well for 
attending it. 


The circus was octagonal, with arched sides, 
and under every arch were places of attractive 
resort of all kinds, and so attractive that at night 
frightened inhabitants screamed, whistled, rattled 
in vain for policemen, until some volunteer would 
hasten thither and fish the officer of justice out 
of one of the octagonal rooms, as surely as a boy 
in spring-time fishes larvte out of a wasp's nest. 

The minister thought many a time what a mi- 
raculous draught St. Peter would make again if 
he could but cast his net over the whilom place 
of worship ! 

When the little dago girl had nothing more 
to look at, when walls, roof, floor, and cross were 
in place, pews carried in, shavings and blocks car- 
ried out, workmen dismissed, she naturally con- 
cluded that the church was completed and ready 
for the abode of Him to whom it belonged. She 
knew no more of the inside workings of a 
church than of the inside workings of a clock, 
and Herbert was very little wiser than the child, 
for it was his first church. The quantity of 
springs and machinery necessary was indeed 
enough to surprise and confuse a tyro. The 
ladies came in, whence neither he nor any one 
else could tell ; they swarmed about the church 
like insects about sugar ; only they possessed 
what insects lack, organization. By authority of 
what tradition, by order of what transmissions 


or laying on of hands, in what version of the 
Testament, Old or New, they read their title 
and commission, or whether they had any au- 
thority, divine or human, for it at all, whether 
the whole legislation was not an unwarranted 
act of assumption, Herbert did not question or 
investigate the matter. He quietly submitted, 
and with his church bowed under the guild to 
whose mysterious care the parish had by occult 
power been confided. The guild was composed of 
chapters, and the chapters were so numerous that 
every active worker was fractionally represented in 
them, to look after some fractional division of the 
church, the service, and the minister. It takes a 
very large church to woman all its chapters, and 
provide meeting-places for them. Judge how the 
little church was taxed for both, when they all came 
together — condensed, as it were — on special occa- 
sions : Building, Altar, Vestment, Choir, Library, 
Sunday-school, Industrial School, Mission, Visit- 
ing chapters, with presidents, vice-presidents, sec- 
retaries, treasurers, and members. They atoned 
for the smallness of their number by the multitude 
of their opinions ; they represented not a volume, 
but a library of dissenting sentiments worthy the 
greatest church in the land. There were just 
about days enough in the week to contain the 
meetings, and none left over for pacification, ex- 
cept Sunday, which grew in importance as a kind 
of " Truce of God," without which church busi- 



ness would have been an unfinished story. For 
instance, whoever crossed Mrs. Bunnyfeather in 
the Altar Chapter, crossed the secretary of the 
Choir, the president of the Visiting, the treasurer 
of the Sunday-school, and the vice-president of 
the Library chapters, and broke a quorum in all 
the other chapters. And when Mrs. Goodenough 
(which is a name the constitution should forbid) 
was made to weep by unkind remarks over the 
laundrying of the Reverend Herbert's one vest- 
ment — a shrunken, narrow, transparent surplice 
— parliamentary rules were suspended by accla- 
mation until the sensitive lady was soothed and 
the remarker rebuked, for it was an early Monday 
morning, and never a meeting could have been 
held during the week. After he had learned by 
practice and discipline to steer clear of organiza- 
tions, the young minister found that he could not 
walk from portal to pulpit without tripping against 
individual solicitude. The motherly ones were 
always there to tender advice, the sisterly ones to 
ask it ; and poor as he was pecuniarily, and thin 
and miserable to look at, there was not a mother 
among them who did not accuse some other moth- 
er of trying to catch him for a daughter, and not 
a sister whose heart did not occasionally beat 
with ill-feeling against some other sister on ac- 
count of him. 

But though to the pastor they all appeared to 
be pulling in as many diiTerent directions as there 


were names in the chapters, the general tenden- 
cy was forward, and the new little church was 
jerked and pulled and tugged along through Oc- 
tober, November, and into December without more 
than one serious stalling a week, and a jar a day. 
If they had not been women, and the man a Her- 
bert, it would have jolted into some big rut and 
stayed there forever, a wreck on time, and never 
have reached December at all, not to speak of 
Christmas Eve. 

The little Marianna had changed her position. 
She had crossed over the street, and now sat with 
the baby in her arms in a corner of the stone steps. 
Sheltered from the rain, there was little cold to 
dread ; the bright blue sky overhead was as Sicil- 
ian as her own hair and features. She silently 
watched the entrances and exits of the young 
priest, as she called him, the assembling and dis- 
banding of the various yet unvaried committees, 
theorizing, perhaps, on the passers-by, who seem- 
ed to be arbitrarily separated in kind and degree 
by the different hours of the day, and walked 
along in their different costumes on their differ- 
ent avocations, as if fulfilling some predestined 
fate rather than individual volition. The passers- 
by must have theorized about her. Immovably 
constant, she was to them as fixed in her place 
as if she had been built there with the church, or 
sculptured and set up for ornament. A pretty 
ornament, and not inappropriate, for she had 


the proper turn of the neck, the proper droop 
of the shoulders, the sweet, modest, soft eyes, 
and the proper clasp of the arms around an in- 
fant which God has given to her nation that sculpt- 
ors might have a model, that painters might paint, 
and mankind know the portrait of the Madonna. 

The young priest sat almost as immovably in- 
doors when the church business was all transact- 
ed, the chapters all gone, and he and the good 
Lord were in the way of no one except Mrs. Bun- 
nyfeather, who worried over his conduct, think- 
ing it altogether inexplicable, if not improper, not 
to mention Romanistic, necessitating a new chap- 
ter — Ministerial Conduct. 

One evening in December, at the time when 
the sinking sun made rainbows through the west- 
ern windows, and his thoughts travelled easiest 
the heavenward journey, a woman rushed up the 
aisle of the church to the altar, a pale, wild-eyed 
woman, holding a bundle in her arms. 

"Will you christen her, sir.? — will you christen 
her? For God's sake christen her, to save her 
soul !" She held the bundle towards him, and 
began to untie, unwind, untwist it, with fingers 
all disobedient and astray as to their proper vo- 
cations, and so slow that her feet began to give 
way, and she would have fallen on her hopelessly 
entangled bundle if the minister had not caught 
it with one hand, while with the other he eased 
her to the ground. 


" I'm only dizzy, sir — I'm only dizzy and weak. 
I've just been discharged from the Charity Hos- 

She lay back against the steps of the altar and 
closed her eyes. Shade after shade of gray and 
blue pallor palled over her thin, pinched features. 
Her long limbs lay as stiff and straight under her 
calico gown, as they had lain under the sheets of 
her cot at the hospital. And as she vibrated 
back and forth in and out of unconsciousness her 
cheek sank wearily against the step, as if it were 
a soft pillow, or turned away from it, repulsed by 
the coldness of the timber. She did not attempt 
to rise nor to look at him, but talked along 
dreamily, almost deliriously. 

" The Sisters would have christened her, but I 
wouldn't let them. They would have put her in 
one of their asylums. The Sisters would have 
christened her and put her in an asylum. The 
Sisters — " 

She became conscious of the repetitions of her 
tongue, and by a struggle raised herself to a sit- 
ting posture and relieved her thoughts. 

There is no telling how old a sick woman is. 
As she lay on the ground she looked weazened 
and shrivelled ; yet her way of hiding her face in 
her arm, and her petulant opposition, were very 

" There's no need for her to be damned too, is 
there, sir ?" 


The face that looked out from the shawl was 
as old as the mother's, and so red and wrinkled, 
and with such an unpromising outlook for the 
soul, that the minister felt he could assume the 
responsibility of a decided negative. 

" They said she was a fine child ; Tm sure she's 
very pretty; don't you think so, sir?" 

There was a huge stone font, which the guild 
had begged from a pious stone-cutter. It was 
as large as a child's bath-tub, and not unlike one 
in shape — a font in which babies by the half-dozen 
could have been immersed. And there was a 
small pitcher of water which the kind old colored 
sexton daily placed in a corner of the choir for the 
minister's refreshment. As careless of the ritual 
as the Saviour had been before him in all his cer- 
emonies, ignoring the printed requirements of his 
prayer-book, and trespassing against ecclesiasti- 
cal etiquette in almost every word and gesture, 
Herbert administered the rite, humbly praying 
on his own behalf, at the end of it, that the good 
Lord would stand by him on the last day, when 
his bishop, before which dignitary ministers like 
Herbert are the worms of the earth, should find 
out the full irregularity of the proceeding. 

"What is her name?" he asked, not in the 
formal conventional tone, for he did not venture 
to bring the dignity of the Church into the trans- 
action ; it was only a matter of a fortnight-old 
soul, between the Lord and himself. 


The woman had risen. He saw now that she 
was really young, and had been pretty. 

"Oh, sir," with a twist of her head, "do you 
think Daisy would be too good for her ? Daisy 
is such a beautiful name ! I read about a Daisy 
once in a novel." 

Decidedly she was very young. He christened 
her Daisy, and cast about for some saint with 
whom he might take a liberty. He remembered 
his mother, a saint, though not jn the calendar; 
her name was Elizabeth ,• so he made up " Daisy 
Elizabeth," and for what an informal baptism was 
worth the little child in his arms lay indebted. 

" I can carry her now, sir ; I was only a little 
weak. I should have left the hospital yesterday , 
my time was up ; but the Sisters wouldn't let me. 
It was raining, so they made me stay one day 

She was standing right in a rainbow, looking 
through the colors younger and younger, prettier 
and prettier ; the church was already beginning 
to get dark in the corners. 

" The Sisters were very kind ; they would have 
put her — But I was an asylum girl myself, 

Oh, the mother-lack and the father-lack in that 
plaintive confession ! It sounded through the lit- 
tle church like a wail from all the sun-bonneted, 
uniformed little girls foredoomed to heart misery 
in asylums. She turned, and with uncertain feet, 


unaccustomed to her light weight, went out of the 

It was a fiction of his imagination, and he knew 
it; but if the good Lord had been there, He would 
have followed her, would have taken the young 
woman under the arm and conveyed her to a 
sure, comfortable retreat, just as Herbert thought 
he saw Him do, just as Herbert did himself. 

There were questions to be asked, information 
statistically useful to be obtained. As a clergy- 
man he was empowered to satisfy his curiosity ; 
but he had none. Why should he surmise six- 
teen instead of knowing it .'' why steadfastly over- 
look her marriage finger ? — who she was ? — what 
she was ? — a little woman with a child — a new 
mother in the world with a pathetic body stagger- 
ing from the ordeal, and a heart most carefully, 
most femininely concealed. 

She walked rapidly, trying to look business- 
like, trying to deceive people. But the white 
women they met looked their comments ; the 
black ones uttered theirs coarsely with laughter, 
glad to find a flattering equality of vice ; and the 
men — she shrank and winced at every one that 
passed, clinging more and more helplessly to the 
arm that supported her. 

The sun, as usual, had saved cityfuls of warmth 
and brightness for Christmas week, and was up 
bright and early Christmas Eve, eager to com- 


mence the donation. In the gardens the bushes 
had still a reserve stock of flowers all ready to 
blossom out when the sun gave the signal. May 
must have effected a change with December ; for 
if ever a bright, joyous, exhilarating, bouncing 
May rushed in rosy and laughing, among the 
months of the year with exaggerations of warmth, 
show, glitter, sunshine, and blue sky, that month, 
or week of it, came on the 24th of December to 
a certain city, and fell all in a heap around a cer- 
tain church. And the largesses of nature were 
imitated, if not surpassed, by the people. All the 
poor had to do was to name their menu for Christ- 
mas dinner, and they got it, and the older, the 
poorer, the uglier, the more disreputable, the more 
certainty of getting it. Christmas-trees sprouted 
in every asylum, and if ever orphans had occa- 
sion to forget the loss of parents they had it that 
night. Sunday-schools, yielding and consenting, 
finally embraced foolishness, and spent money 
hoarded for foreign missions on cakes, candy, and 
lemonade for the heathen at home. Santa Claus 
was expected ubiquitously in all the hospitals in 
the city at once, and anticipation thwarted ano- 
dynes in the children's wards. The generous gave 
until they almost destroyed all prospects for future 
giving; the mean and stingy gave ; even the rich 
and fashionable gave. The commercial exchanges 
all gave, and the clubs almost got a majority in 
favor of the annual motion for a grand newsboys' 


dinner. The butchers sent complimentary roasts, 
the grocers cordials, the confectioners bonbons, 
to their customers. From the city went oysters, 
oranges, and good wishes to the country; the 
country responded also with eggs and monstrous 
turkey-gobblers. There may have been some un- 
fortunates who did not receive, but there were 
none who did not yield to the season, climate, 
and the prodigality of their natures by giving. If 
there were any babies born on Christmas Eve — 
and there must be some, for it is said they are 
born half-minutely all over the world — and if they 
had any recollection whatever of the blessed king- 
dom they had left, they must have stifled their 
sharp birth-cry of disappointment, pain, and re- 
gret , for this spot of earth was so full of good- 
will, so bright, so redolent of flowers and peace, 
that they could not have been otherwise than 
glad to come here. 

" But," thought Herbert, walking his beat from 
the old church to the new, " the reachings of 
money are limited. There are other wants that 
need other currency. Empty hearts may be hung 
like empty stockings on Christmas-trees this night 
which no Santa Claus is coming to fill — the 
mother who sits by an empty cradle, the husband 
who stretches out his arms in the dead of night 
for his absent wife, and the wife swathing her 
bleeding heart in widow's weeds. The old pen- 
sioners, looking around vainly in their eleemosy- 


nary shelter for comrade, kith and kin, to pass 
the feast-night, chide death for tarrying. The 
old maid, my cousin Ruth, who sits in a grudging 
home sewing for another's children, who mock at 
her loneliness and lovelessness, sees, alas ! the 
vision of her own children that might have been ! 
And the old bachelor sitting in his club window, 
drinking whiskey-and-water to keep up his spir- 
its and frighten away the ghosts of the past, the 
realities of the present, his sordidness, meanness, 
selfishness, what exorcism does he exercise against 
them ? An asylum boy or a sick child in the hos- 
pital is happier on Christmas Eve than he !" 

Night had fallen as low as it could over the 
broad brilliant street. The tall electric - light 
poles held the darkness aloof like a canopy over 
a saturnalia. The deep, narrow shops from un- 
der their beetling galleries gleamed out Golcon- 
da splendors. In the show-windows jewels and. 
precious metals, brocades and laces, pictures, por- 
celains, fans, feathers, and crystals, were displayed 
as mere advertisements of the greater beauties 
within. Violets, roses, and jasmines mingled 
their fragrance on the flower corner, and almost 
beautified— so sweet and fresh they were — the 
withered, faded faces of their venders, the flower- 
girls of half a century ago. The banquettes held 
their usual kirmess of nations : white, black, yel- 
low, in rags, in silks, in velvets, old, young, mid- 
dle-aged, handsome and hideous, and a babel of 


tongues that taxed the versatility of the noisy 
itinerant peddlers with their new stock of wares, 
impudence, and wit for Christmas Eve. 

Christmas was setting in in earnest, the trop- 
ical, maddening, typical Christmas of the place ; 
Christmas that comes but once a year, to make 
good the long, dull, hot days of summer ; to defy 
the chill, pleasureless days of old age ; to remind 
young and old of the shortness of life and the 
sweetness of it. The horn -blowing had com- 
menced, too — all sorts of horns, blown by all sorts 
of lips : great horns, borne on the shoulders of 
tall men, bestridden by manikins, and blown by a 
united effort ; little horns tooted by street raga- 
muffins, impudently blown in the faces or mali- 
ciously blown in the ears of the dignified and un- 
wary ; horns by scores, by fifties, by hundreds, 
matching the lights by tlieir multitude, involving 
ears as well as eyes in their confusion ; joyous, 
melancholy, melodious, and discordant horns ; 
horns that produced tunes, and horns that were 
barren of all but noise ; exciting, fretting, whip- 
ping up the blood, kindling it like tinder, sending 
it off in screams and explosions like the fire- 
crackers that danced on the streets under the 
horses' feet. And the subtle nocturnal influences ; 
the excitation of money- spending, the delicious 
consciousness of losing self-control, the extrava- 
gances, the unrestricted expressions, the hilarity, 
the equalities, the friction of humanity, the gro- 



tesque banquette procession, where out of strange 
faces gleamed eyes bright with incipient conta- 
gion of vicious blood : it was Christmas with a 
latent symptom of orgy in it ! 

Herbert looked not above for the aerial spires 
of the old church, nor about for the Vision which 
usually guided his steps ; it was not His hour yet. 
He hastened on and around the corner, and reach- 
ed his own little church. His hand was on the 
door to close it. " Should every house be open and 
hospitable on this His birth-night and not His 
own sanctuary ? Who am I, that I should selfishly 
be His only guest ?" He propped it wide open, as 
if for service, and entered the gray gloom inside. 
The electric light over the way threw a mild radi- 
ance up the aisle to the steps of the chancel, gar- 
nished for the morrow's feast. 

The labors of all the committees of ladies had 
ended, and so, he hoped, had their wranglings 
over the decorations. The wranglings were not 
to be charged to their discredit, for the excite- 
ment of the day was upon them, and the vexing 
contrast between the poverty of their own and 
the wealth of other churches. Their hearts (fool- 
ish women's hearts) hankered after possibilities 
beyond attainment, their spirits grieved over the 
acute disappointment of what could not be, and 
their tongues became partisans and disseminators 
of discontent. If the motto had been " Discord 
and Ill-will," instead of the contrary, it would 


have been far more appropriate to the state of 
mind whicli pervaded the discussions as to where 
it should be hung. 

He had a lamp in the choir and books for 
evenings when he felt inclined to pursue the vast 
science of theology, of which he was so lamentably 
ignorant. He waited to-night, however, until his 
eyes had become accustomed to the quieting ob- 
scurity and his ears delivered of the noisy aban- 
donment of the street sounds in the church. 

It was not to be denied that the preparations 
were meagre, hardly less so than those on the 
original night in the stable. Nothing but greens 
and mosses from the swamp, to be got at the 
small expense of hiring a cart to haul them in. 
They garlanded the rails and table and desk and 
the huge font, which resembled, indeed, a veritable 
manger. The dimly transparent windows, three 
on each side, piercing the thick walls, looked with 
their pendent wreaths like marble tablets with 
funereal cypress memorials to the dead. The 
effect would not have been festal were it not for 
the star. It shone over the altar on a shield of 
green — the donation and triumph of Mrs. Good- 
enough, the humiliation of Mrs. Bunnyfeather. A 
beautiful star (frosted with some glistening pow- 
der), a white, radiant, diamond star, a gleaming 
spirit star, a silvery effigy of the joyous living 
ones in the heavens outside, shining on its green 
shield as if from the cavernous mouth of some 


subterranean mystery. For it did shine and gleam 
and glisten in the dark damp church for all the 
world as its celestial prototype shone and gleam- 
ed and glistened in the East above the trackless 
desert to the astonished eyes of watching shep- 
herds. Whether helped thereto by unseen celes- 
tial sources or by some reflected, refracted con- 
tribution from outside electricity, or whether it 
burned with an effulgence cleverly contrived by 
Mrs. Goodenough, it was the star's own secret 
where the illuminating power came from; and the 
eloquence, too, with which it spoke to the little 
minister, speaking as it spoke nineteen centuries 
ago, driving him to his knees as it drove the shep- 
herds to their feet, forcing him to bow his head 
and hide his face in the moist, odoriferous leaves 
of the chancel rail — that was the star's secret, too. 

" Out of the niglit. 
Into the light, 
Star of Bethlehem, lead !" 

A band of negro singers paused on the steps 
outside, trying their voices together before start- 
ing on their Saturday night round, stringing their 
improvised rhymes to suit the occasion, careless- 
ly hitting or missing the sense to satisfy sound, 
the accordion playing an interminable pulsating 

" Out of the soil, 
Out of the toil. 
Star of Bethlehem, lead !" 


They walked away, the weird, thrilling falsetto, 
a ventriloquial voicing of a distant woman's 
plaint, griped the heart like a spasm. Fainter 
and fainter they sang, keeping step down the 
street, trailing the tune after them long after the 
words were swallowed up in the blare of horns, 
the fusillade of fire-crackers, and the indistinct 
murmur of tumult that surged and rolled like a 
near tempest. 

" Let us stand in here, Harry ; I can tell you 
better. There's such a din out there. It's a 
church — a little church." 

A woman led the way in, more at home, as 
women are, in churches. She caught the man by 
the hand and drew him up the aisle, in the path 
of light, out of danger of overhearing or being 
seen from the street. 

" It's a church, but God knows we mean no 
harm or disrespect." She had the soft accent of 
English that has grown alongside of French. She 
barely came up to his shoulder — not that she was 
so small, but he was so tall. He had length, 
breadth, and strength in him for two men. 

" Well, what is it, Janey ?" 

His low voice was rich and sweet with love and 
premature concession. He must have taken both 
her hands in his while he said it. 

" No, no, Harry ; don't touch me. I — " 

Now that the time was come, she did not know 
how to begin it. Should she begin it at all ? How 


sweet not to ! To go on and on in uncertainty, 
but in love ; to vacillate another fortnight, and 
then another, to temporize ! 

" Is it about to-morrow, Janey ?" 

" Yes, Harry." She was more resolute than 
her voice. " I want to tell you I can't; indeed I 
can't. You must give me back my word ; I can- 
not keep my promise." 

" Janey ! Janey ! are you in earnest ?" 

" It's no use, Harry ; I've tried and tried. I 
thought I would be able to do my duty to both ; 
but it's no use. I made up my mind to-day, and 
Christmas is as good a time as any. When I 
saw everybody to-day so pleasant and happy — 
ah, me !" She stopped a moment. " It's been 
before me for some time. To go away from the 
children now is simply to give them over to the 
bad ; the only chance for them to be better is for 
me to stay w.ith them. I've waited and waited 
with hope and courage ; I'm at the end of both ; 
and I thought that Louisa one day would make 
an effort ; but she has less thought, less industry, 
than ever. I thought that father would^ The 
boys, I mean — the boys are getting worse and 
worse. Never a day but I expect to be called 
home by some dreadful messenger, ever since 
Johnnie was run over by the dummy. They 
curse ; they smoke ; they run the streets from 
morning till night; they will not go to school; 
they will not do anything but hang around the 


corner groceries and theatres. It will be drink- 
ing next, I suppose ; and gambling and pistols 
and knives, if not the gallows at the end !" 

" Why, Janey, Janey, little woman !" 

" No, Harry. The time has come for me to do 
something about it. I fear I have not done my 
duty. It rises before me at night, when I go to 
bed, that it might all have been different. In- 
stead of working out, I should have worked at 
home. My thoughts go too much to you ; they 
should all go to them. How can I think of leav- 
ing them forever ! Who would feed them ? Who 
would look after them ? What would become of 
them ? What would become of my peace of mind ?" 

" Bring them all with you, Janey ! bring them 
all with you !" 

" No, Harry ; you know I cannot ; I will not 
do that. Besides, there's father. There's only 
one thing to do. I must give up trying to do 
two things. God has settled my life for me. He 
has put those children in my charge, and father. 
And, Harry, you must find some one else to be 
your wife, some one who can bring more to you 
than I — more heart, more time, more youth, more 
beauty, less disgrace and shame. If it had been 
different ! Harry, it is harder on me than on you ! 
Harry, Harry, you should help me out !" 

She would not let him touch her, but all the 
time her hands were holding fast to his arms, to 
his hands, travelling over the front of his coat. 


He did not help her out at all, listening to her 
speech in dull, dazed silence. 

"Instead of getting married to-morrow as I 
promised, we must part ; and — and it is better I 
should never see you again." Through the in- 
coherence of mind and thought there was a driv- 
ing determination in her mind which urged her 
on with desperate recklessness of the pain in her 
heart and the pain in his. " May God keep and 
bless you, Harry ! and may some other woman 
love you as I do, and be to you what I cannot!'' 
She raised herself on tiptoe, and put her hands 
up to his face, her fingers sinking in his soft 
bushy beard. She pulled him down to her, seek- 
ing his lips in the dark with her lips, and kissed 
him once, twice. 

" Janey ! Janey ! If you throw me off, you 
throw me to the devil !" 

" Harry ! Harry !" she screamed ; " don't, don't 
say that !" 

She put her arms out again towards him ; he 
was gone. " Harry !" She ran out of the church 
after him, down the steps, up the street ; he was 
nowhere to be seen. She crossed from one side 
street to the other, looking for the tall, straight, 
burly figure. She heard a step behind her, and 
paused ; it sounded familiar ; she had to press 
her hands down over her beating heart. 

" My pretty one !" 

She struck at the proffered hand and leering, 


unknown face. " If Harry were only there to 
protect her !" 

In her flight from insult she instinctively aban- 
doned her search, and breathless, trembling, flew 

Harry had only turned aside in the vestibule, 
avoiding her in the dark as she ran after him. 
He came back into the church, and sat on a bench. 

He knew so little about women, though he 
knew and loved one. 

He bent his head down on his crossed arms, 
swaying his body from side to side under the 
mastery of passion which took the form of un- 
governable rage, and swept all his reticence away. 

" Curse it all ! — all ! — her father, her family — 
throw me off ! — like a dog ! — pretend to love me ! 
Lies ! lies ! lies ! I'll make her repent ! I'll — " 

A light touch fell on his shoulder. It was not 
Janey, although it was a figure not any larger, a 
voice fully as soft and tender. 

" Harry," said the minister — he knew no other 
name to call him by — " I heard it all, and — " 

" I don't care who heard it ! I don't care if 
the whole city heard it, from Carrollton to the 
Barracks !" 

" Hush ! you have forgotten she told you this 
was a church." 

"I'll leave it. What did she bring me here 
for ? I'll get out of it. I'll go on the street." 

"Will you go after her ?" 


" I go after her ? I speak to her ? May God — 
I'll cut her on the street ! I never want to lay 
eyes on her again ! I'll disgrace her ! I'll drink, 

He could think of nothing more certain to hurt 
her than injury to himself. 

" I'll go to the devil ! Oh, she'll regret it ! 
She'll repent it !" 

"Why should she do it?" 

"Why! why! I know why. They've bedeviled 
her and pestered her at home till she's 'most crazy. 
They've worked her till she's got no heart, body, 
nor soul left. They've dragged her down and 
down till her pride is gone, and she's ashamed 
even of me. Some of the brats have done some- 
thing — the devil himself isn't up to more rascal- 
ity than they — or her old daddy has gone on an- 
other spree, been locked up, or kept her up all 
night abusing her. Her wages are used up, and 
this Christmas Eve, when all the world is a-pleas- 
uring and frolicking, she must go home and sew 
till daylight to buy bread and meat for them. 
It's — it's — " His temper rose with a sudden 
bound. " Is't a hell, this world? — the whole 

The pews shook under the stroke of his clinched 

"You love her, then?" Herbert alone knew 
whether it were a question or a logical conclusion 
in his own mind. 


"Love her? I swear to you, sir, as God Al- 
mighty hears me, I never loved any woman on 
earth but her, and she knows it. I never shall 
love any other woman. I ain't given to talking 
about it. I couldn't even tell her. There's no 
one knows it or understands it but myself. If I 
were to think of it, sir, I wouldn't work another 
lick. She isn't pretty, and she doesn't look 
young any more, and she's worked to a shadow ; 
but God knows, if I was on my death-bed, and 
life would be given me to marry the prettiest girl 
in the world and not her, I'd turn my face to the 
wall and die. I want her ! I want her!" 

His face went again into his arms. 

" And to think she could throw me off like a 
dog ! I might just as well go> and jump into the 
river. It's the end of it all. It is not the look 
that is in her, sir." He was up again and talking. 
" It is the look about her. It's the pale face and 
the sad eyes; it's the poor, thin, tired little body 
I want to ease. It's her little slim feet I want to 
hold tight and still in my one hand. It's her 
little mite of hands I want to give a holiday to." 
He could feel her little hands passing over his 
face, her fingers in his beard; the tears gushed 
in his eyes. " I wish I was dead and buried and 
out of it all." 

" It would be different," he continued, after a 
silence — the minister was so motionless at his 
side it was the same as talking to himself — "It 


would be different if I thought she was going to 
be happy, or comfortable, or anything like; but 
my mules — I drive a float, sir — have a better time 
than her. From morning till night she's going 
on not enough fodder to keep a bird, and not as 
much ease and peace as a penitentiary convict. 
Her father's a sot, that's all. They used to be 
very respectable and high-minded before he took 
to drinking. He worked in a cotton-press. There 
seems to be no end to his sinking now; it would 
be a God's mercy if he would drown in a gutter, 
or be knocked over by some of his drunken 
gang. I wonder she don't take to drink, too ! If 
I were a woman with as little chance as her I 
would. But no, she'll work and work and kill her- 
self — and that will be the end of it all. They've 
been at her again ; they've had a scene ; I could 
see she'd been crying. She doesn't know what 
to do, so she flings me over, the only friend she's 
got in God's wide world. And that ain't going 
to make it easier, as she thinks. It will kill her. 
Mule nature couldn't stand it, let alone woman 

" I'd fixed it all. We Avere to go off somewhere 
to-morrow and get married without any one know- 
ing it. I was afraid they'd get at her — the chil- 
dren. I've told her over and over again I'd take 
care of the children like — like children of my 
own," He stammered, for the comparison with 
him had ceased to be conventional. " Good for 


nothing as the children are, she loves 'em as if 
she were their mother, and his own wife wasn't 
as patient with him as she is with that whiskey 
barrel of a father of hers. I 'ain't got any use 
for him, and she can't help seeing it ; that's 
what hurts her. She ought to have had the 
best and proudest father in this city, that's a 
fact ; and God ought to have done better by 

" Great Scott ! to go around all day Christmas 
Vv'ith the feeling in my heart that Janey was my 
legally married wife ! My sweet, sad, tired, dainty 
bit of a Janey ! And no one know it — not a soul 
— until evening came and time to go home. 
'Janey, my wife, come home!' Paradise would 
have been a fool to this earth then; and if any 
man would have dared say it wasn't a merry 
Christmas, I'd have knocked him down. Yes, 
sir, I would. It's all ready and waiting for her — 
my little shanty. I haven't slept in my room 
since she promised me ; I was afraid of soiling or 
mussing something. I've slept out in the stables 
with the mules. I own two teams, sir ; six of the 
finest mules in the city, and have paid for them 
too, every cent. I'll never sleep in that room 
again. I'll eat and drink and sleep with the 
mules the rest of my life; and this is the last bit 
of paper that will ever carry the name of Harry 
Farren to marry any woman !" 

He pulled the license out of his pocket, and 


would have torn it, but Herbert took it out of his 


" Out of the sin, 
Out of the din, 
Babe of Bethlehem, lead !" 

The singers, passing again, had increased their 
following. A battalion's tread resounded on the 
pavement. The rhymes taken up from the front 
were repeated down the line, falling off with the 
squeaking mimicry of gamins' voices, out of hear- 
ing and jurisdiction of the accordion. 

"... You want to go to the devil this night ? 
The devil, no doubt, will give you opportunities 
enough," began the minister. 

" Out of the dust, 

Out of the lust, 

Babe of Bethlehem, lead !" 

A shout hailed the locally and timely success- 
ful hit of the couplet, and the contribution of a 
stentorian basso was sung with continued and 
deafening satisfaction. 

Harry, nevertheless, could hear what the min- 
ister said, faint and low as the tones were. If it 
had been of a Sunday or daylight, and from pulpit 
to congregation, he might have recognized it as a 
sermon; the disguise now, by time and circum- 
stances, was so complete that at the end of it he 
stepped into the street unconscious that he had 
been quietly and obediently listening to one. 


However deficient in morality, even according 
to the naturally lenient statement of their eldest 
sister, the little Wiggenses were not to any per- 
ceptible degree wanting in intelligence where 
their own interests were concerned. They did 
not expect Santa Claus, like the sun, to smile on 
the just and unjust alike; indeed, their own past 
Christmas-treeless experience gave the lie to such 
an expectation, but they did hope this year to 
manage, or, as they put it, "get ahead of him." 
As he only came once a year and stayed but a 
short while, they determined to test their strength 
and his perspicacity by a short, sharp trial of 
goodness. With handsome munificence, they can- 
celled from their minds all remembrance or even 
knowledge of past naughtinesses, calculating that 
by conduct superlatively exemplary for one night 
and day they would refute for once, if not for all, 
the calumny of the neighbors, who persisted that 
the " Wiggenses didn't know what good was," 
and render themselves worthy candidates for 
those largesses which they understood fell only 
to the obedient and pious. Their devices to this 
end were varied and endless. 

Johnnie — called "Tipple" — whose foot had 
been amputated by the dummy, that special re- 
warder of bad boys, took the initiative. He 
begged, entreated, commanded, that he should 
be tied in bed, tied with a borrowed clothes-line, 
and so restrained from hopping around on the 


floor on his one foot, to the killing amusement of 
his sister and six brothers, and the exasperation 
of the unfortunate young practitioner who at- 
tended him — an individual who had far more char- 
ity than brains. Johnnie also requested and in- 
structed them to put a head on him at the first 
indication of gab on his part to the old stick-in- 
the-mud doctor, and called them all to witness 
that they might depose when the time came that 
since that morning he had not loosened the band- 
ages to see, himself, how the stump was getting on, 
or to show them, though he assured them they 
might beg him on their knees to do it. And 
the brothers and sisters were not to be outdone, 
though it went hard with them, for every day 
the doctor's visit was funnier in virtue of new 
original impromptu variations. Instead of hid- 
ing behind doors to squeak and scratch and 
whisper " Rats !" when the young man made his 
appearance, asking him, when he went, about his 
" ma," requesting a loan of five dollars, or a ci- 
gar for a light, pinning fragments of newspaper 
to his coat-tails, and calling "Extra!" behind him 
down the street, or by opposition show and vari- 
ety dancing behind his back frustrate his at- 
tempts to gain Johnnie's attention — instead of 
this daily performance, which, as noted, was nev- 
er more delightful, they wished the doctor "good- 
morning " with such decorous politeness of tone 
and manner, and were so successful in their hy- 


pocrisy generally, that the poor young fellow, 
having the infection of the day upon him, went 
directly from the house to a fruit-stand, and bought 
all the oranges, apples, and bananas he could not 
afford, ordering them to be delivered in sure se- 
crecy and mystery the next morning, that Santa 
Claus, the scape-goat of other people's generosity, 
should get the merit of it. And more recklessly 
still, he opened a credit, on what assets he alone 
knew, and bought a crutch, which was also to be 
delivered anonymously to Johnnie. He was a 
country lad, and had not quite learned city ways 

Time never fell so heavy on the hands of the 
Wiggenses before ; they found good days much 
harder to fill than naughty ones ; in fact, there 
was no comparison between the ease of finding 
occupation for the one and for the other. The 
short and merry life of the wicked is not merely 
a figurative expression. 

Janey's little cupboard of a room was always 
securely locked against them, but their own apart- 
ment offered as fair a field for reform as for 
depredation. They swept and dusted it, not 
once, but a score of times, until the borrowed 
broom was recalled and a renewal of the loan 
peremptorily refused. They washed their faces 
and combed their hair for months in advance. 
They tied and retied Johnnie in his bed, each 
one separately, according to some new Individ- 


ual idea of comfort and security, in such high 
good-humor all the time, laughing and shouting 
with such boisterous hilarity, that they made 
themselves, if possible, more annoying than ever 
to the neighborhood, until, long as the day was, 
it began undeniably to draw to a close. Louisa, 
the eldest of this set of Wiggenses (Janey be- 
longed to a long -forgotten first wife), had be- 
thought herself at the last moment of washing 
her frock. It was done standing, and going at 
the dirty spots singly all around the skirt ; and 
now, being energetic in any undertaking, the 
basin being handy, with water and soap, she had 
just completed the same satisfactory task for her 
hair. She stood in the centre of the room shaking 
her long, dripping red locks over the floor, for- 
getting her object in fascination of the elegant 
variegated pattern which, with a little care, she 
could design all over the dusty surface. They 
had had an idea of scrubbing the floor at one 
time, but now rejoiced over the abandonment 
of it. 

" Make it go round and round like shells, sis," 
suggested Bobbie, in envious admiration. 

" No. I tell you, diamonds, diamonds is the 
prettiest. It's too dry ; go get some more water 
on it." 

" Pshaw ! now it's too wet." 

" You ought to hire yourself out for a waterin'- 
can, sis." 


** Or a whitewash brush." 

"A yellow-wash brush you mean." Johnnie 
always was the wittiest of all. 

" It must feel funny to have all that stuff on 
your head." 

" Suppose a horse had his tail tied on his head ?" 

" Let's cut it off, sis — eh ? Just to see how you 
look without it." 

" Geewhillikins ! I could laugh till I bust. 
Janey she thinks I'm smoking cigar stumps round 
by the Academy, just 'cause she told me particu- 
lar not to." 

Bobbie swaggered up and down, smoking an 
imaginative cigar stump, his hands under an im- 
aginary coat-tail. 

" I reckon she's traipsing round now, looking 
for me everywhere." Louisa swung and switched 
her hair superciliously. " She seems to think I 
can't never stay at home." 

" She'll just keel over when she sees me a-lyin' 
here all tied up," said Johnnie, pulling himself 
together to make his bonds tighter, glancing down 
at the immaculate bandages over his ankle. 

" Tell us how it felt when it was a-coming off, 

"Oh, tell us once more." 

" It felt a — " prompted Louisa. 

" Pshaw ! don't be mean." 

" It felt a — " continued Louisa. 

" You hush up ; you don't know. Was you 


there, now ? Say, was you there ?" And Johnnie 
felt obliged to save his anecdote by telling it again 
for the thousandth time since the accident. The 
rest clustered around the bed not to lose the least 
part of word or expression. 

" It felt a scrinchin' " — twisting his hands as if 
wringing something off — "and a scranchin' " — 
twisting his face now — " and a scroonchin', and a 
— hell !" with that side-splitting wink of his left 
eye at them. 

"I 'ain't done nuffin all day." Baby, the 
youngest, four years old, who usually did the gut- 
ter business, had patiently waited to enter his 

When Janey did come home and opened the 
door in her habitual despairing way, they must, 
unless they were altogether insatiable, have been 
satisfied with her surprise. At the moment, they 
were hopping over the floor to show the delighted 
Johnnie how he would have to walk in future; each 
one holding the shoe off the naked upheld foot. 

" Hurrah, Janey ! Here we are !" 

" Every single one of us, Janey." 

" We haven't been out all day, Janey." 

"And we've been being good, Janey." 

" Look at me, Janey !" 

"Look — look at Johnnie, Janey !" 

" Don't you see, Janey ?" 

" I tied him, Janey." 

" So did I !" 


"And me, too !" 

" But I told 'em to do it. Didn't I ? Didn't 
I, now ?" screamed Johnnie, over them all. 

" I 'ain't done nuffin all day long, Janey," 
claimed the baby again, looking so unnatural 
with his clean face that it is no wonder Janey 
kissed him over and over again for a dear little 

" See, we are going to hang 'em up, Jane}'," 
showing the shoes. 

" Santa Claus has got to give us something 
this time, sure !" 

" We 'ain't got stockings, but shoes will do." 

"And we are going right to bed, so as Santa 
Claus can come as soon as he likes." 

"And right to sleep." 

" Here's Tipple's shoe. He 'ain't got but one. 
Had to let the old car mash off the tother one." 

" In course ! in course !" Tipple would be 
sarcastic. " It was my fault. I ought to have 
took off my hat, and made a low bow to the dum- 
my, and axed the cars please to stop till I took 
off my shoe, or tell 'em to call round again, or to 
come in summer when I was barefooted." 

" I hope Santa Claus will bring me a red para- 
sol," and Louisa sidled and arched as she imag- 
ined the fortunate possessors of these luxuries to 
do in their promenades through the streets. 

They were indeed that evening as good and 
affectionate children as were to be found any- 


where among all the miraculously good and affec- 
tionate children of Christmas Eve. They kept 
their word about going to bed, and what was 
more surprising, about going to sleep, leaving 
Janey to novel evening hours, undisturbed by 
care or anxiety about them, dnd scoring a point 
in their own favor which no Santa Claus could 
by any possibility ignore. 

Janey lighted her lamp and got out her sewing 
that she might think, for one process with her had 
become inseparable from the other. She had 
been a precocious adept in both, and since Lou- 
isa's age had been hemming, running, stitching, 
basting, and button-holeing year after year, or 
year on year, first in one, then in another, dress- 
maker's room, carrying her thought around with 
her needle-book, adding chapter to chapter, pe- 
riod to period, from childhood to Avomanhood, 
finishing up one job of thinking to open another, 
as if she were paid by the day for it also. 

Going through heavy stuffs for the winter, light 
ones for spring, thin for summer, light for au- 
tumn ; as the months slipped by, she only knew 
the seasons, in the close room, by the dry-goods 
she sewed. Going into mourning and out of 
mourning, changing, twisting, turning, fashioning 
old garments to look like new, and new ones to 
appear more than their price, receiving constantly 
new orders about placing the whalebones, ribbons, 
buttons, laces, hooks and eyes, cutting out one year 


this way, another year that, draping and undraping, 
life had outwardly become one long monotonous 
servitude to change. If she had had imagination, 
she would have said that she was not a woman — 
her woman charms drying up unused upon her 
— but some devil's imp or gnome, one of a vast 
league, in some stolen woman's body, sent from 
some devil's little hell of fashion on a special 
mission of corruption against womankind ; to 
aid, abet, encourage, assert, and produce dissen- 
sion between the mind and body ; to tempt into 
perils of debt and perils of morality; to delude 
with beauty and reward with ugliness; to uncover 
in pretending to cover ; to disclose in pretending 
to hide; to draw the laces tighter and tighter, 
cut the bodice lower and lower, the sleeve higher 
and higher, the skirts narrower and narrower ; to 
push a suggestion to a suspicion, a suspicion to 
a conviction of impropriety ; to efface standards ; 
to inure to exposure ; to push flesh and blood 
forward into ever greater evidence, and the soul 
backward into ever greater discredit. 

But such were not Janey's thoughts, although 
a morbid companion at the work-table gave utter- 
ance to similar ones. Her thoughts wandered in 
other directions. They were off and away at the 
first stitch for beautiful gardens, or for sandy 
shores rippled by the waters of a blue lake, under 
golden skies, listening to sweet music, locating 
the pearly streets of heaven. Or they spent mill- 


ions of money in schemes of charity, or went on 
missions to unfortunates ; or, coming home, they 
cleaned, repaired, and beautified the poverty and 
disgrace-stricken domicile ; they educated Louisa 
into a respectable young woman ; they made the 
boys sober, honest, industrious laborers ; keeping 
Dick from gambling, Bobbie from smoking, and 
Tippie from catching on behind the cars ; they 
sent the baby to a free Kindergarten, and re- 
formed — God help her ! — her old rascally father, 
bringing him from the grog-shop to sit at home 
of evenings, refining from his face the blotches 
and marks that incrusted the features, and hid 
them from what they were in her childish recol- 
lections of him. There was to be a table with a 
lamp on it ; around it they all were to sit, she 
with her sewing, the others with newspapers and 
books. She could see the very pattern of the 
table-cover. God help her again, and all women 
who toil on through life after t'g/ii's /a fu us hope, to 
be led into disappointment and a bog ! 

At the end of all the planning, cleaning, re- 
forming, at some distant point in a long vista, her 
thoughts, and her needle too (for it was distinctly 
officious in the process), would marry her to 
Harry. And then the repose, the caresses, the 
leaning on a strong arm, the reclining against 
a strong breast ! And now, God bless those 
thoughts which come to lonely women, and give 
them a taste of the love they are never to know, 


and provide them with the mate, family, and home 
which their nature craves, but their destiny denies ! 

She had much to think about to-night, but her 
needle threaded only stitches together. She was 
to start anew in life to-morrow; she had taken 
the first step already ; but her feet were already 
tired and apathetic. The children all slept in 
their little beds, quiet and safe. Perhaps if she 
had had to hunt them up, as usual, to scold and 
punish them, if they had been unkind, impudent, 
ungrateful, as usual ! She shed tears over the 
bitter thoughts that had come to her that day 
about them, the bitter feelings which had lashed 
her on to her own immolation. The revulsion 
which their change of conduct had caused in the 
judgment of the poor young physician was as 
nothing to that which the young Wiggenses caused 
in the heart of their sister, simply by coming in 
early and going to bed quietly. 

Hark ! how happy the people were outside ! 
She threw down her work, opened the window, 
and leaned out. Tramping by, with bundles un- 
der their arms, men and women talked and laugh- 
ed loudly, full of Christmas plans and presents. 
The market stores were all ablaze with light. 
She could hear fireworks all over the city ; an 
occasional rocket burst in her horizon, throwing 
new constellations over the thickly-starred heav- 
ens. She knew they came from the aristocratic 
mansions up-town, sent up by servants hidden in 


flower-gardens to amuse the silk and lace clad la- 
dies in the galleries. Bands of music crossed each 
other at street-angles ; great fire-crackers like pis- 
tols were shot off like minute-guns over a victory, 
startling and frightening her every time. What 
joy and merriment there could be in the world, 
and what sorrow and heaviness of heart ! Why 
was it that only the latter portion had come to 
her ? The children thought it was their naughti- 
ness had prevented Santa Claus coming to them ; 
what would they say to-morrow when their good- 
ness would be found unrewarded ? 

" Out of the chase, 
Out of the race, 
Man of Bethlehem, lead !" 

How the voices hurt ! the quivering, drear, ne- 
gro voices, changing every melody into a dirge, 
funereal in mind as in skin. 

" Oiit of the tears. 
Out of the fears, 
j\lan of Bethlehem, lead !" 

How often at night they had passed through 
her dreams, these street minstrels, waking her 
with tears in her eyes, and she had loved them 
■ for their musical gratuity, and gone to sleep 
again singing the tune over to herself ! God may 
have afflicted them, but He had given them the 
expression and alleviation of music. 


" Eleven o'clock ! They would have passed 
this evening together, Harry and she, the last 
evening of their separate lives, hand in hand, 
and — No ; when they were together, it was not 
all endearment and embrace ; that was only in 
her thoughts. Why should she think that which 
had never happened, never could happen ? Why 
now did she feel his lips upon hers ?" She hid 
her face in her hands and stifled a moan on her 
lips. Why should her heart involuntarily moan ? 

What carousing was going on at the corner, in 
the groggery where her father was .-' They had 
better be at home, these men. Where were their 
women ? Leaning out of windows, watching, sleep- 
less, unhappy? Those fire-crackers, how could 
the police permit them ? Murder could be done 
by pistols under cover of their noise. Harry had 
looked forward to to-morrow — her great, burly, 
high-tempered Harry ! He was dull about some 
things, but she loved him all the better for it. 
"God knows I thought it was my duty!" She 
said the words aloud, and started at the sound of 
talking to herself. A black cloud had been gath- 
ering over her for a week ; perhaps she was not 
well, perhaps she had worked too hard, and, and 
— if she had waited ! Would Harry go to the 
devil as he said ? Wasn't it always a woman's 
fault Avhen a man went to the devil ? She had 
meant to save her little brothers — from what ? 
What immediate danger threatened them ? Harry 


had no sister, no family to look after him — Harry, 
who had given her only the constant love-tokens 
of an unswerving devotion. Her heart was get- 
ting beyond her control ; bounding, leaping, de- 
manding, crying, craving — Harry ! Harry ! no 
brother, no sister, no father — only Harry, her 
promised husband ! She was so weak and tired, 
so helpless against this sudden heart fury. "Would 
he go straight home — ah me ! — and sit in the dark 
thinking hard things of me ; or would he go to a 
saloon too, and make an all night of it ?" She 
had once taken his pistol from him, and made 
him promise never to wear it again. Would he 
love again and get married? There were few 
women who would not be glad of him for a hus- 
band, and she had thrown him off — for what ? 
To think that her life would go on the better 
without him ! And the children, why should he 
not have helped to train them, her husband, their 
brother — without him no future, no — 

That was a pistol this time ! again, again, and 
again ! Screams, oaths, a rushing crowd ; a cry 
of murder ! "Harry! Harry!" She rushed from 
the room to the street. She would pierce the 
crowd ; she would tear her way through ; if he 
were there she would drag him out ; if he were 
shot, it was she had disarmed him. There were 
assassins and drunkards at that corner. 

*' Janey, Janey, what is the matter ? Where are 
you going } Janey !" 


Harry's arms held her ; Harry's voice was in 
her ears. He had waited, as he promised tire 
parson — waited until midnight, his last vigil on 
the little box steps in front of her house. The 
bells were just going to ring now. 

" Janey ! little woman ! little wife !" 

For she clung to him so,' she cried so over him, 
she kissed his face, his eyes, his beard, his hands 
— his hard, heavy, mule-driving hands. 

" Harry, Harry, Harry, darling !" 

That was the way she always called him to 
herself, but it was the first time he had ever heard 

" Harry, I'm all wrong; Harry, I can't — I can't 
live without you." 

What a maddening jubilation ! what a peal the 
bells were ringing about them ! as if all true, hap- 
py, reunited lovers in the world were pulling at 
the ropes' ends. 

Herbert remained alone in the church to the 
meditations, for which eighteen centuries have 
furnished the soil, and which, even in a Christmas 
story, perhaps cannot with discretion be revealed. 
Whether he wandered up and down the narrow 
aisles, or whether he stood in the dark, with his 
head against the walls, staring blankly before 
him, or v;hether he sat in a pew, his face in his 
hands, or looking up at the cheap radiant star 
over the altar ; whether he fell on his knees be- 


fore the altar, murmuring inarticulate words of 
prayer, or shedding tears on the green leaves, or 
cried " Avaunt !" to lurking Satans, or shut his 
lips to keep back the rising tumult in his heart, 
it was intended for none but the eye of Him whom 
the star typified. 

Oh, the sadness that comes on Christmas Eve ! 
All the noise and merriment is but to neutralize 
it. Never does time appear to move so fast, and 
good resolutions so slow ; never does childhood 
appear so beautiful, or so remote ; never does in- 
nocence appear more heavenly, or more impossi- 
ble ; never do longings for the dead and gone so 
wring and torture the heart : never does the hard 
reality of the present so clash with the anticipa- 
tions of what it was to be — as when, hour after 
hour, Christmas Eve passes, and, hour after hour, 
Christmas approaches. Herbert struggled to 
make the present one yield some mitigations of 
future ones ; some recollection which would stand 
out in Christmas Eves to come, and challenge the 
black spectre of despondency that glides in mid- 
night hours to whisper in the ear of the consci- 
entious, " Thou hast failed." And if any prayer 
addressed at such a moment might be recorded 
by profane hands, it was the prayer that rose 
from his heart to that effect. 

And he felt that the answer would come to him, 
not in the church, but out there in the multitude, 
surging and rolling out noise, leaving now and 


then a rocket here, a voice there, cast up solitary 
and shrill on the air. 

Out there were hands to be clasped, hearts to 
be raised ; out there sympathy, companionship, 
love ; out there a whole population for a desolate, 
loving heart. Out there, where the barefooted 
vision walked, were sisters and brothers at this 
moment waiting for them both — sisters and 
brothers in spite of religious, political, financial, 
racial separations. 

" Out of the tomb, 
Out of the gloom, 
Christ of Bethlehem, lead !" 

The accordion was tired and tripping, the 
voices thin and irregular ; both were on their last 


" Up, up above, 
To Heaven and Love, 
Christ of Bethlehem, lead !" 

The words ran together and stopped suddenly, 
as if butting against a wall ; the tune had been 
lost in the various transmigration of voices. 
"Would it be safe to leave the door open now?" 
Had He no more use for His little church to- 
night ? If He should come and find it closed 
against Him ? 

Herbert did not shut it as he went out. The 
dago family hung around their shop like bunches 
of their own tropical fruits, gorgeous in their 


bright clothes, which nature must have furnished 
and renewed from year to year, like foliage, so 
harmonious and unconventional were they; Maria 
with her dress open, perhaps, a trifle too much 
over the thick yellow skin, for nature is not pru- 
dish ; but there was a long lock of black hair to 
fall across it, just where baby hands could clutch 
and play with it. Every year there was a new 
bloom, so to speak, around the door ; a new baby 
to toy with the hair and lie on the breast, to be 
weaned afterwards by Marianna, and then turned 
out with the rest into the whole street for nurs- 
ery. They slept on the stem as their fruit did, 
for all the street knew to the contrary, the latest 
retirers and the earliest risers never hitting on 
the moment when their banquette was empty or 
their house full. They were doing a rushing busi- 
ness this evening, uniting all the forces of the 
family — Salvatore, Maria, Marianna, down to the 
last lisping tongue— for English in which to ne- 
gotiate it. 

The great thoroughfare still held its throng, 
but the brilliant shops looked rifled and empty ; 
the tired clerks leaned, pale and haggard, over 
their disordered counters ; the flower-women were 
gone, the street booths were being covered up, 
buying and selling were over, yet still the moving 
procession filled the banquettes and blocked the 
corners. The theatres were discharging their au- 
diences, the great octagonal circus giving forth 



as if it had hidden inside some inexhaustible 
source of human beings. The easy - swinging 
doors of the saloons swallowed some in as they 
passed ; some went in to the grand entrances of 
the social clubs; the cars carried loads of them 
away ; skimming off by degrees the more respect- 
able element, and all the women. The harmless 
period of jollity was passing ; the horns became 
instruments of disturbance and annoyance ; the 
fire-crackers were too loud, and left behind them 
the reekings of gunpowder ; evil-looking men in 
shabby garments prowled about their lairs in ob- 
scure side streets and dark alleyways. 

Almost midnight ! Almost Christmas morning ! 

Once ! Four, five, six times ! — too quick for 
counting — well-known sharp reports fell upon the 
air ; pistol-shots, no fire-crackers ; the imitation 
sound, after all, was imperfect. A rush of men 
out of a side street, with the fear of murder and 
the witness-box behind them, gave the clew to 
the curious. 

" Killed ?" 

" How many ?" 

" Not dead yet ?" 

" Who did it ?" 

The galloping horses of the ambulance went by; 
policemen lead through the crowd three sudden- 
ly sobered, pale-faced men, one with a pistol still 
in his hand. The ambulance returned slov/ly, and 
a cab passed with men in it trying to hold erect 


an inert body ; then the bells, which had been 
waiting a year for this moment, pealed out with 
all their might and brazenness ; the big bells 
calling up the little bells, the church bells sum- 
moning the fire bells, and all together rousing 
every bell in every factory, market, and depot, 
till there was not an idle or a stationary bell in 
the city. Peace, good-will, peace and good-will 
on earth, on earth as in heaven. 

The great, vague, dim ships and steamboats on 
the river, wakened like sleeping monsters from 
their mist and inertness, gave voice, tardily tak- 
ing up the cry with their hoarse steam-whistles, 
bellowing an inarticulate and beast-like accom- 
paniment to the sweet human rejoicings of the 
bells. And all who had breath or horns or fire- 
works left expended them royally during the first 
five minutes of the great Birth-morn. 

Herbert obeyed the bell that called to midnight 
mass in the cathedral, down a narrow street, over- 
hung with iron lace-work of balconies, following 
the file of worshippers contributed from every 
house door. The bronze equestrian statue in the 
square gleamed like silver through a coating of 
dew; the sharp electric light pierced the hidden 
places of the roses and jasmines, whose perfume 
freighted the air into heaviness. Through the 
open doors of the cathedral the lights of the altar 
were seen, over an undistinguishable mass of 
heads ; the steps in the possession of a mob, 


pushing and elbowing for entrance ; negro faces 
under head -kerchiefs, white faces under laces, 
still flushed from the dance, lips still wet with 
champagne; the greasy jacket of the boot-black 
rubbing against a dress-coat, the calico sacque 
of the "marchande" brushing aside a silk cloak 
from bare shoulders. The cross, gaunt, old uni- 
formed Suisse burrowed in the crowd, rebuking 
the loud-mouthed, tapping with his staff the ir- 
reverent, collaring small boys, and cuffing them 
all the way out to the street. The sleepy, indif- 
ferent priest mumbles the prayers to the sleepy, 
indifferent saints niched in the darkness above. 
The motley congregation arrested their conversa- 
tion to make the sign of the cross, or dropped 
momentarily on one knee ; until the familiar voice 
of the favorite opera singer sang the " Cantique 
de Noel." " Noel ! Noel !" 

A hush fell on them all. Even the Virgin, in 
her gaudy incarnation of paint and gilt, must be 
impressed. Even the most thoughtless, the wild- 
est, the wickedest, must pause for that one mo- 
ment of singing. 

" What do men and women like those feel and 
think in such a pause ?" 

Herbert looked at a group, staying their laugh- 
ing and jesting and undue familiarities of hand 
and tongue. The hymn was ending, one last 
note thrilling the air, the current of people al- 
ready setting towards the street again. 


" Where is your baby ?" Herbert recognized 
one of the young women by an inspiration 
tlirough her blazonry of silk and jewels — the 
asylum girl. 

Her face paled at his question as it did that 
afternoon on the chancel steps, showing on each 
cheek a spot of rouge in startling relief. 

" My baby ?" 

She tried to say it derisively, tried to make her 
pretty eyes flash at him, tried to throw off his 
hand, tried to laugh with the others. In vain. 
The mother in her deserted the woman ; with all 
her effort nothing was left of her but a weak, 
trembling, ghastly, conscience -stricken creature, 
with breasts throbbing wildly, hands craving their 
burden, and a heart which all through the dinner 
and the opera, the champagne and the revelry, 
had been dragging her back — back to the steps 
where she had deserted her own flesh and blood. 

The men, elegant and discreet, looked before 
them ; the women tittered, whispered, pointed ; they 
were older than she. The crowd carried them all 
off, leaving her standing by the young pastor. 

" Have you put it in an asylum .?" 

" No ! no ! no !" 

" Take me to it." 

He took her hand and led her out, pulling her 
along for a square or two ; then she led him, in- 
creasing her speed, as the bad spell on her weak- 
ened, faster and faster, until, almost in a run, she 


reached the bright lights of the broad thorough- 
fare. She pulled him across it, and on, on, past 
house after house, to where his little church stood 
gray and shadowy in the night. Up to the church, 
to the steps, up the steps to the corner appro- 
priated by the Sicilian Marianna. 

" Gone ! Gone ! My baby gone !" she screamed. 
She got down on her knees and felt the place with 
her hands, going over and over it, as if searching 
for a pin. " Could it have rolled down ?" She 
rushed out in the banquette and looked up and 
down ; she bent over the gutter and plunged her 
hands in the slime and mud. " My baby ! My 
baby ! Gone ! I put it here — right here " — lay- 
ing her hand on the spot — "where the little dago 
girl sits. She would have found it, taken care of 
it, nursed it. Every day I've seen her here : she 
looked like the picture of the Virgin." 

" You abandoned it ; why should you care for 
it ?" He could not ask the question of her as 
she stood illoglcally, inconsequently weeping and 
wringing her hands, her hat and feathers awry, 
her long, light, wrinkled gloves wet to the elbow 
with gutter mud. From all eternity women have 
been mothers, only faithless momentarily. 

" I resisted, I resisted, but the Christmas com- 
ing — the noise, the lights, the music, the fire- 
crackers — they called me out, as they called me 
out of the asylum, out into life, into the world. 
It was the devil again at me — the devil ! My 


baby ! My pretty little baby ! She will be sent 
to the police-station ; she will be put in an asylum, 
to be called out, as I was, by the devil. She will 
be taken by people who will beat her, by negroes 
who will degrade and corrupt her. The little 
dago girl would have been kind to her. I could 
have seen her every day. My baby ! Now I've 
lost her forever." 

Marianna did not wait for the bell from her 
own fosterling church, for she knew that it was 
too poor to possess one. But about the time for 
the other bells to ring, she ran in from her oyster 
and banana selling to midnight mass there. No 
crowd, no lights, no music. She slipped through 
the open door. Was this a church on Christmas 
Eve ? 

It could not have been finer in heaven itself 
than at San Antonio's, their patron saint's, last 
year. The stable, the oxen, the manger, the Vir- 
gin, the Wise Men, and St. Joseph — all life-size 
and death-stiff. And not even in heaven, unless 
in the Italian quarter of it, could the candles 
(great monoliths of wax with orchidaceous efflo- 
rescence, only slightly yellow with age), the gilt 
and silver, the paper flowers and coloring, be ex- 
celled. And the votive legs, arms, hearts, hands, 
eyes — they hung around like the gleanings of a 
battlefield ; and the mental and moral cures, with 
the printed acknowledgments — San Antonio must 


surely have thought of the decoration of his own 
church when he undertook so many miracles. 
That was a church ! Here was nothing, abso- 
lutely nothing, but sad green leaves. She knelt 
down at the altar. If there had been only a bam- 
bino for the empty manger ! Could not God, 
who sent bambinos in quantities on the asking, 
have spared one poor little infant for this cradle ? 
Why did not the patron saint of this church emu- 
late the example of the industrious San Antonio ? 
Not one image! Not one ex iwto I Not a flower 
or a gilt leaf ! She looked at Pepe in her arms, 
and at the font. Here was the cradle ; here is 
where the bambino should lie. But Pepe was 
far beyond the age and cleanliness for the role ; 
his time of dismissal was about come ; precocious 
as he was, he had not learned to crawl a moment 
too soon. The rich ladies of the neighborhood 
might have given a bambino, or loaned one of 
their own. 

" Marianna ! Marianna !" her mother called. 
Maria would have sent her voice into the very 
Vatican when she was in a temper ; and the 
Holy Father himself would hardly have dared 
defer obedience. The little girl ran by her cor- 
ner of the steps. Who had been invading it .-• — 
her own temper now rising. The bundle fell 
open at her touch, exposing the contents. 

" A bambino ! a bambino ! God has sent a 
bambino !" A beautiful bambino, clean and 


white, with naked feet and hands. She dropped 
Pepe, and carried it in quickly, and laid it on 
the green couch in the baptismal font in time 
for the first stroke of the great bell that led the 
ringing choral, over-ringing her mother's vocifer- 
ous " Marianna ! Marianna !" 

" Where are you going .?" asked Herbert, taking 
the girl by her wrist again. 

" Nowhere ! nowhere ! There's no place for 
me to go on earth. My baby ! my baby !" She 
tried to break from him. " Let me go ! let me 
go ! I've lost my child ! I've killed her ! Let 
me kill myself, too !" 

Her voice was loud and violent. People pass- 
ing by turned back to look at the desperate woman 
in struggle with a man. 

There was one place open for her and all like 
her ; the host was standing in the door to wel- 
come her. Herbert lifted her, still struggling, up 
the steps, and carried her, tight and fast in his 
arms, to the spot where she had fallen prostrate, 
a broken, helpless creature offering her child to 
the Saviour. The star shone over the place. 
Her eyes were quicker than his, but she thought 
it a fantasy ; her poor brain had been so dis- 
traught. She had been seeing this baby so long ; 
for weary, weary months ; through the glaze of 
fever at the hospital, through suffering, privation, 
temptation. She had just been seeing it lost, 


stolen, ill-treated, dead. She could trust her 
eyes no more ; she closed them on the vision, but 
they would not stay closed. 

He thought her cry was maniacal, and her ac- 
tions, tearing and scattering the greens from the 

" I gave her to Him, and now He has given 
her back to me. See ! see ! I gave her to Him, 
and now He has given her back to me." She 
held the bambino towards Herbert. 

With the fear of the committee before his eyes, 
Herbert replaced, as well as he could, the fontal 
decorations, artfully trying to suggest in the re- 
placement an impending top-heaviness. 

" Where are you going now ?" 

If he could only have seen the radiance, the 
sweet holy radiance of her face ! 

" Home ! home ! with my baby — my child !" 

As they descended the steps a limp figure 
rolled and lolled over a protesting accordion. 

"Into the light, 
Into the right, 
Christ of . . ." 

" Yes, sir ! that's so !" The words ended in a 

The little church had a grand congregation, a 
most surprising congregation, for Christmas Day. 
Everybody who was anybody in the neighbor- 
hood seemed to be getting up too late for any 


but the one church — the gentlemen could not 
finish their breakfasts in time, nor the ladies 
dress themselves sufficiently fine, nor the children 
be made ready, for the fashionable churches up- 
town. All came. The nobodies of the neighbor- 
hood all came, hot from dusting and sweeping 
and washing up dishes ; the cooks ran in pulling 
down their sleeves, the maids with their caps and 
aprons ; the passers-by stopped in for a prayer or 
two ; and all the roving churchless Christians, 
who could not pay pew rent anywhere, or who 
had been dropped by their pastors or shunned 
by other church officers as irretrievables — the lit- 
tle church gathered them all in ; not only them, 
but their offerings — big donations intended for 
bigger churches, and the mites which were too 
small for any church but this one. The young 
gentlemen from the boarding-house come over at 
least in time for the plate, and those who could 
not come sent crumpled bank-bills by their col- 
ored waiters. 

The music was wretched, every one said, the 
sermon more commonplace than ever, the reading 
miserable, the decorations paltry. But it was 
soon over — a compensating merit fully appre- 
ciated by the members of the clubs just around 
the corner. By twelve o'clock they were all 
away — all except a tall, burly, shy man and a 
neat, little, pale, trembling lady, and a long file 
of children afflicted with irrepressible hilarity, 


munching apples and whispering their admira- 
tion over the agile performances of a lame boy 
on a new crutch. 

" I took your advice last night, sir, and I hope 
you will marry us this morning, sir. I've got her 
now, and she sha'n't give me the slip again." 

There was no need to answer this, but woman- 
like the bride would have attempted it if Herbert 
had not immediately commenced the marriage- 
service. The delighted vestry, with their .pocket- 
handkerchiefs tied to bursting over the bills, 
trade-dollars, halves, quarters, dimes, and pica- 
yunes taken up in the collection, acted as wit- 
nesses, and gave the bride away in a body, col- 
lecting their kisses, however (or they would not 
have been in the vestry), singly and individually. 
They shook hands with the groom and tipped the 
children, from Louisa to Baby. 

When they were all leaving the church together, 
beaming under the load of Merry Christmases 
they had received and Merry Christmases they 
had given, who should appear with the greatest 
alacrity from the corner where she and her curi- 
osity had been concealed but Mrs. Bunnyfeather, 
note-book in hand, and mindful as ever of her 
duty as secretary of the Sunday-school chapter. 
Not one of those little Wiggenses was allowed to 
depart until the last name, age, and sex had been 
registered as Sunday-school scholars, member- 
ship to commence that very evening at the Sun- 



day-school Christmas-tree, on which, she assured 
them, Santa Claus had hung a present for each 
one of them by name. Surprising as it may seem, 
such really turned out to be the case — not one 
was forgotten. 



.^OW, Margot?" 

"In a moment, monsieur;" and 

Margot's scrubbing-brush proceeded 
with accelerated force. 

The cathedral clock in the vicin- 
ity struck the quarter. 

"But the time passes, my good Margot." 

" In just one minute, monsieur." 

The clock rang the half-hour. 

" Margot !" 

" I am going now, monsieur, at once." 

Monsieur Villeminot heard the sound of the 
floor-cloth really ceasing at the sill of the door, 
and a last handful of brick-dust fall scattering 
over the wet boards, and the bucket being car- 
ried out. 

The room was so small that privacy could only 
be obtained by standing behind him as he sat in 
his great leather-covered easy chair, an antiquated 
" Voltaire," whose flattened springs and stufifing 
were assisted by pillows and cushions of divers 
shapes and hues. Margot unpinned the piece of 
bagging that served for an apron, let down her 


skirt over her stockingless ankles, and passed a 
dean calico dress over the soiled damp one she 
had on. As she had explained to Madame St. 
Georges only the day before, with a shrug of the 
shoulders : " Mon dieu, madame ! I have not 
known a more intimate garment than a dress in 
years, years." She gave a glance of satisfaction 
over the well-scrubbed floor. " At any rate, it is 
done now for a week," she said, more to herself 
than to the occupant of the chair, and shuffled 
out of the room in her old carpet slippers. 

When he heard the door close behind her, the 
old man among his cushions began as usual to 
mutter his thoughts audibly, a disconnected, un- 
intelligible monologue, getting more and more dis- 
tinct with the certainty of solitude. His fine aris- 
tocratic language resembled Margot's daily speech 
as the silken toilets of the ladies in the street re- 
sembled her calico homeliness ; it was as much 
out of place in the menial interior of his habita- 
tion as the long row of glistening-back books that 
filled the mantel-shelf. He bent his head forward, 
listening to his own voice furtively, as he once 
might have looked at his face in the glass, pro- 
nouncing the words and phrases tentatively, inter- 
rogatively, scanning his toothless articulation. In 
his sightless, motionless existence the contracted 
enclosure of his apartment set no limits to the 
vast blank space that surrounded him; a space 
furnished only by the dim scenery of a lived-out 


past, and with but one certain living reality in it — 
himself. To-day his words came not, as sometimes, 
from literary corners or imaginative niches in his 
memory. Imagination for once v,'as stilled, liter- 
ature forgotten, phantasms and visions dissolved. 
The brows over his blind eyes wrinkled and fur- 
rowed, his palsied hands clasped and unclasped ex- 
citedly the arms of his chair, and his w^hite-haired 
head, responsive to his own eloquence, rose wrath- 
fully erect. Expressions original in their inspira- 
tion fell from his lips, and his voice resounded so 
firm, so determined in his own ears that, had his 
eyes been suddenly unsealed, he would have ex- 
pected to see not a decrepit Octogenarian, pros- 
trate upon the cushions of an easy chair, quartered 
in a wretched, isolated closet on a servant's gal- 
lery ; but a youthful, heroic, vigorous figure, aflame 
with ardor, strength, and patriotism, repulsing by 
word and blow, in chamber or field, the audacious 
invasion of his country; the only figure to enclose 
a French heart, the only heart for a youth born 
under the star of Napoleon I., the only scene and 
action for a French patriot in the year 1870 ! A 
fit of coughing arrested the resurrection of his 
youthful self, and he fell back exhausted — back 
into age, infirmity, and impotence, into the grave- 
clothes and cofhn boundaries of his chair. 

All the other rooms on the gallery that Margot 
passed were closed and locked, the lodgers work- 
ing out by the day. She turned into an open, 


arched vestibule and went down the contorted, 
narrow staircase holding the balustrade with one 
hand, clutching at the wall with the other, and 
trying to step upon safe places. 

The railing was black and greasy from con- 
stant handling, and the mortar had been scratch- 
ed away from the brick all the way down by out- 
stretched fingers. "Ah, the Pagan 1" she muttered, 
"he will break our necks yet some day with his 
old 'guet-a-peus.' " Had they but have material- 
ized the reproaches and animadversions upon old 
Grouille, the landlord, they would have incrusted 
the roof like stalactites. 

The landing-place was filled with buckets and 
tubs, the brick iloor was mouldy from dampness, 
and the fumes of charcoal poured from the Car- 
lins' open room, where a furnace stood in the fire- 
place heating its load of irons to redness. Margot 
went in and deliberately removed them one after 
the other carefully to the bricks. The bed in the 
corner of the whilom kitchen was heaped with 
rough-dry clothes; the doorless armoire held heaps 
of ironed pieces. On the ironing-table was a bro- 
ken basin of raw starch, a cracked soup-plate of 
bluing and an unfinished shirt, the bosom dry- 
ing into wrinkles; Monsieur Wilhelm's weekly 
shirt it was, marked distinctly with red cross- 
stitch, for the washing and ironing of which he 
gave tri-weekly lessons in penmanship to Rou- 
gette and Blanchette, the overgrown, but under- 


gifted, sixteen-year-old twin-daughters of the wid- 
ow Carlin. It was hke the Carlins to rush out 
thus heedlessly from their work at the first cry 
of news; and Margot's shake of the head beto- 
kened as much. She looked into all the other 
rooms on the ground -floor, but, like that of the 
Carlins, they were deserted and disordered. She 
reluctantly crossed the court-yard, pulling at and 
fastening her dress, and entered the long corri- 
dor, the domain of the wealth and elite of the 

Even Monsieur Fre'jus, she saw, had been se- 
duced away from his post behind his little glass 
counter filled with an inestimable treasure of red 
and white coral beads, devotional images and 
plated silver medals, crucifixes, and prayer-beads. 

A volume of mixed voices directed her to " La 
Rose de France," the shoe-shop of Monsieur Re- 
naudiere. There she found them all assembled, 
the small room quite full. "Papa" Renaudiere, in 
his shirt-sleeves and working apron, was talking 
and gesticulating furiously, waving and rustling 
the last "Extra" in his hands; his spectacles 
pushed back to the bald place on the top of his 
head, his eyes flaming, his hair and whiskers bris- 
tling out laterally from nervous manipulation. 

Monsieur Frejus's head was still moving back- 
ward and forward in the melancholy oscillations 
produced by the first item in the cablegram of the 
"Extra." His spectacles, over his dim, abstracted 


eyes, looked like the glasses of an unlighted lan- 
tern, and his countenance was as dejected as the 
holy effigies on his crucifixes. He stood with his 
back to the street, leaning against the show-win- 
dow where Monsieur Renaudiere's misfits were 
vindictively kept on exhibition; a high -heeled, 
pointed-toed array of pedal beauty; a temptation 
and reproach to the slipshod passers-by, and a 
vaunting advertisement of Monsieur Renaudiere's 
superiority in skill and artistry over bungling, 
clumsy Nature, and a standing taunt and chal- 
lenge to her for competition or imitation. 

All the Carlins were wedged into the back door 
of the workshop with the journeymen ; the widow's 
sleeves rolled to the shoulder, and her fat white 
feet gleaming in the bottom of her sabots ; her 
youthful twin replicas of her honest, handsome 
face peering over her shoulder. The journeymen 
listened open - mouthed, looking withal askance 
at Madame Renaudiere, who, towering behind her 
diminutive husband, led the chorus of lamenta- 
tion with a rank Gascon accent. 

" Ah, la pauvre Patrie vas !" 

" Pauvre France !" 

" Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu !" 

" Ah, she has no luck any longer." 

" It's a malediction !" 

" What will she do now ?" 

" But what is it ? What is it ?" asked Margot, 
eagerly, entering from the corridor. 


" Sedan !" 

" Sddan !" 

" Sedan !" 

" Mais c'est dans quoi ?" 

" C'est dans le desespoir," answered IMonsieur 
Renaudiere promptly, in his character of wit and 

" Ah, oui, c'est dans le desespoir." Madame 
Renaudiere rolled out the words as if her mouth 
Avere lined with cobble-stones. 

" In truth, my friends, it is a great calamity." 
The mincing accent of the little Parisian flower- 
maker came from the folds of a pocket-handker- 
chief, behind which her enterprising eyes cast lan- 
guishing overtures towards old Grouille the land- 
lord. He, unconscious of sympathy or notice, sat 
on the dainty sofa reserved for customers, hold- 
ing his bushy head with both hands, excusably 
as Alsacian as well as Frenchman, giving him- 
self up to those uncurbed demonstrations of grief 
usually devoted to absconding tenants. 

" Sedan, dog of a name !" snarled Jacquet from 
the " Quincaillerie " opposite. He was Monsieur 
Renaudiere's formidable rival in eloquence, pa- 
triotism, and politics, and a fervent red republican, 
priest-hater, and woman-hater to boot ; although 
there were on-dits and shrugs and winks enough 
in the neighborhood and suspicions enough in 
his second-hand shop to seriously attaint the loy- 
alty of this last profession of his at least. 


" But — " began Margot again. 

" Chut !" whispered Anais Renaudiere, pulling 
her skirt; "it's the French, the French!" 

" The French," interrupted the keen - eared 
Monsieur Renaudiere, fiercely snatching her ex- 
planation from her. " The French, Madame 
Margot ; France ! . . . " He cleared his throat, 
which was indeed husky from emotion or pro- 
longed exertion. "France!" all looked up for 
an expected verbal palliative. "France is — 
France is — It is a freak of nature! It is an 
event ! It is an occurrence ! It ! France !" He 
looked around at them all ; he could not say 
it. " France is eclipsed, momentarily eclipsed !" 
He launched the word triumphantly. "A cloud 
is passing over her ; a cloud of Prussians. Can 
the sun, can the moon be destroyed ? Well, as 
they are the orbs of the heavens, so is France 
the orb of the earth, and" — he was in full 
course now — " indestructible except by cata- 
clysm !" 

"Enfant du bon Dieu !" came in naive awe 
from Madame Carlin. 

" Ha ! it is not the end ! You think it is the 
end ! But wait, wait for the last word. Your 
Bice Marque, your Molque, your Que'sair ..." 
This apostrophe, different in tone and direction, 
caused his audience to start. " Monsieur Vil- 
lem !" they exclaimed. Even Monsieur Frejus's 
head stopped vibrating at the unfortunate appari- 


tion of the young German in the door-way behind 
Madame Margot. 

" The Prussians ! the Prussians !" screamed 
Monsieur Renaudiere. " I defy the Almighty 
Himself to create a Prussia that could whip 
France !" 

"But my friends," commenced the young man 
in a French which was foreign in clearness and 
precision — • 

" Friends ! Bah !" 

" Friends ! Ah, yes !" 

" Friends ! French and Prussian ! Friends !" 

" But we are in America ; we are Americans !" 

" Americans !" 

" Ah, yes ; Americans !" 

" Americans ! a la bonne heure !" 

" We are to call ourselves Americans, hein ? 
now, when our country is being assassinated ?" 
called out the ebullient Madame Renaudiere. 

" Americans ! vas !" sneered the journeymen. 

" Yes, when America was in danger, we were 
Americans ; America was our country, our moth- 
er ; but France ! France ! She is before America, 
she is the first, the source of countries for us ; she 
is the divine incarnation of ' la patrie ' as the 
Virgin, as the Madonna, is the incarnation of 
womanhood. When I say France," the tears roll- 
ed down his face before them all, and his voice 
broke — "when I say France, it is as if every drop 
of blood in my body had a voice. Expatriation 


may change the body, but the blood, the blood, it 
is always the same, always remains loyal, Gallic ! 
Gallic, my friends ; and," with an acute transition 
from sentiment into anger again, "it is our Gallic 
blood that calls for vengeance to-day, it is our 
Gallic blood that blushes to-day at the insult of 
destiny, and dares to reprove God." 

" Gallic blood !" repeated Madame Renaudi^re, 
impressed herself and proud of the effect of the 
high-sounding adjective on others. 

" Bravo !" responded Jacquet, applauding the 
reproof to God. 

Monsieur Frejus hastened out of the room where 
patriotism was taking a turn inconsistent with his 
pious trade. Monsieur Wilhelm Miiller, the plod- 
ding young professor of Greek and Latin, looked 
round and round in embarrassment, uncertain 
whether a national or personal explanation would 
be more appropriate ; a deprecating smile on his 
lips, the color mounting under his thin skin, his 
simple blue eyes confessing frankly the doubt be- 
tween grief and anger. He had been fellow-lodger 
and companion to them for years, a Prussian to 
them for two months ; but there seemed to have 
been a tacit nullification of all former propitiatory 
periods and relations. From each familiar face 
black flags and martial accoutrements waved and 
bristled now to his peaceful overtures ; even from 
his scholars Rougette and Blanchette, even from 


The shoe-upper Anais held in her hand shook 
and quivered, dancing the glistening, pendent 
needle at the end of a long, black- silk thread. 
Her head was tossed back, her chest heaved tur- 
bulently; in her eyes rose up the whole terrible 
calamity of Sedan ; those shy, alluring black eyes, 
his paradise and temptation ! For the first time 
they avoided the sweet intoxication of a rencon- 
tre with his. As for Margot, she stood stupid 
and silent, neither daring to hazard another ques- 
tion, nor return without more definite information 
to her husband. 

The women's voices, which had been modulated 
in woe, began to rise shrill and sharp in reflections 
and insinuations against their elected foe, Wil- 
helm, now in full retreat. Margot hastened after 
him through the damp corridor as fast as her 
slippers would allow. 

" Monsieur Willem ! Monsieur Willem ! For 
God's sake, tell me what it is all about ! I can't 
understand a word, no one will explain — the pa- 
tron waits, he is agonized to hear the news. It is 
a perfect gombo." 

The sharp snapping of his finger-tips ceased, 
and he turned around, " Sddan !" 

" But that's what I say ! C'est dans quoi ?" 

" It's another battle." 

" What ! Only another battle ! All that fuss 
about a battle ! Mon Dieu ! I thought some one 
had been killed !" 


" Tell Monsieur Villeminot that his nation is 
whipped, his Emperor a prisoner, his army sur- 
rendered ! eighty thousand men, eighty thousand 
cowards ! . . . " 

" Tell Monsieur Villeminot that ! tell ' mon pa- 
tron' — oh. Monsieur Villem !" 

" I am as big a fool as the others," the German 
exclaimed. He looked down on the little woman 
with her patient, earnest face raised to him, and 
the unbecoming, ireful gleam in his eyes faded 
away. Her feet in his own cast-off slippers ; her 
colorless blond hair, her sallow skin, her tired, 
faded features ; as if she had worn away her nat- 
ural outfit of good-looks with her clothes, and life 
had only second-hand or cast-off supplies to 
grant to her poverty. Her figure, in the pitiful 
manner of overtired women, bent back as if in 
search of support ; but her eyes looked at him 
from it all, with all their original expression of 
trust and confidence. 

" If he could read it for himself, if some one 
else could tell him, but me ! Mon Uieu !" she 

" No, I will not speak to any one of them ! not 
one of them V the young man broke in resent- 
fully at the sight of the Carlins crossing the yard 
in his direction. " I shall come in this evening 
myself, Madame Margot ; I shall bring the paper 
and explain. Do not you say anything. Tell him 
it's a mistake, the news has not arrived yet. Mon- 


sieur Villeminot shall not be grieved. Tenez ! I 
had almost forgotten the coffee and the picayune 
for milk for to-morrow morning." He put a small, 
fragrant, brown -paper parcel and a coin in her 
hand, and hurriedly walked through the corridor 
into the street. 

The cathedral bells rang out their welcome or 
illcome intervening hours, measuring their second 
century of time and high and low masses to the 
clockless, watchless humanity of the city in the 
French quarter ; chiming slowly and deliberately 
through the bright, fleshy days of the young, and 
most cruelly prolonging the fretful impatience of 
Monsieur Wilhelm, who awaited eagerly for the 
stroke which was to make or lose a day in his 
eternity. But hurrying echo, close upon stroke, 
linking sunrise to sunset in an ever- shortening 
chain to the old — this seemed to make but mo- 
ments of the diminishing, flitting, ghost-like days 
of the blind old man convulsively grasping from 
his Voltaire chair after but life enough for one 
more item of earth news : the viaticum of defeat 
or victory to his country ! hoping, despairing, ex- 
postulating, wrestling with Fate, trafficking with 
some far-off phantom of infantile Faith, conjuring 
up a belief in immortality, that he might barter 
or wager it for the proud privilege of continuing 
the triumphant traditions of a stalwart period, 
and so provide delusions still for his — French 


It was nine o'clock ringing. The gas, an alter- 
nate mode of illumination by the economical city, 
was being turned off. The unpunctual moon was, 
however, behind time ; only the silvery clouds, 
blown by a light breeze across the segment of 
heavens above the court-yard, warranted the reli- 
ability of the almanac, and told of the distant 
brilliancy in store. 

" Mademoiselle Anais ! Anais!" 

Monsieur Wilhelm walked close to the wall 
under the gallery, and tapped with the merest tip 
of his finger on the glass door of the shoemaker's 
workroom. He could see the light through the 
gathered dimity curtains, and he knew that the cir- 
cle of radiation inside held a head wound around 
with thick black plaits ; a gentille little head 
bending over button-hole making in French kid 

" Mademoiselle Anais ! Anaischen." 

The tap and whisper were accentuated by his 
ardent heart. He knew she was there ; there was 
never any one else in the workroom at that hour. 
Later in the season, yes, in midwinter when the 
carnival was crowded with balls, then it would be 
different, there would then be bustle and noise 
enough behind the curtains. The ponderous, noisy 
old sewing-machine would be stuttering and stitch- 
ing through bewildering varieties of slippers, ]\Ion- 
sieur Renaudibre would be volubly ordering and 
directing, Madame Renaudiere no less volubly 


disobeying and contradicting. There would be 
no little quiet moments like this then ! 


Sometimes his finger barely touched the door 
before it flew open. If she were not sitting there 
making button-holes, she was standing by the ta- 
ble comparing, perhaps, some rejected shoe with 
original measurements ; rehearsing plausible ex- 
cuses for visible differences, protestations against 
invisible ones, and polishing up her elocutionary 
skill for special pleading on the morrow against 
obdurate toe twinges; shrugging her shoulders, 
raising her eyebrows, and gesticulating with her 
long-nailed fingers. 

Oh, he had seen her preparing often enough, 
the coquette ! 

It was very necessary to reconnoitre before 
knocking in front, for the menage Renaudiere 
was in as constant a state of revolution as a Cen- 
tral American republic. There was always a 
struggle for domination going on between the 
stronger and weaker sex, freakishly reversed in 
the husband and wife, but whichever party was 
victorious, the costs of revolution never failed to 
be extracted out of Anais and the younger chil- 
dren. Of seven children Anais was the eldest, 
and step-sister to the rest. It was a moment after 
one of these reckonings which had betrothed 
them. The good God had sent him through the 
corridor and Anais out of the door, there to dry 


her eyes, at the same instant. One little moment, 
but it had been repeated and repeated whenever 
their glances met. Only, the white eyelids of 
Anais would always waver a moment too soon, 
and the heavy lashes would always fall just in 
time to hide the confession coming, always a 
thought too late, from the frightened little heart ; 
the tardy flush alone arriving to remain uncon- 
cealed, and burn eloquently of hidden motives to 
his eyes. Wilhelm's dream was some day to stay 
those eyelids but long enough for the blush and 
confession to meet. 

The water trickled and dripped from the mossy 
green cistern behind him which filled an angle in 
the galleries and screened him from the rest of 
the yard. He sat down on the bench against it, 
upsetting the tin cup hanging over the faucet. 

" Qui va la ?" (Who's there ?) 

He heard Madame Renaudiere bound from her 
bed. Her threatening tones fell from the win- 
dow-shutters on the gallery above him. 

"Who's there, I say?" 

The heavy hooks dropped from the windows, 
and she came out on the gallery, hastily pulling 
on her blouse-volante. 

" Who's there ? If you don't answer I shall 
call my husband !" 

This was intended for the ignorant, mal-inten- 
tioned ones, who supposed that Monsieur Renau- 
diere stayed at home of evenings attending to 


his business, instead of discussing the war with 
Jacquet and others at the " Quincaillerie." 

" Passe, chat ! Passe !" she called, after a 

" It is only I, Madame Renaudiere ! Margot ! 
I must have made a noise coming through the 
corridor, it is so dark." 

"You, Madame Margot ? So late !" 

" It is only a little after nine, Madame Renau- 

" Ah, I thought it was cats !" 

" The pests, they are dreadful ! I cannot sleep 
for them myself at night. ' Dieu vous benisse !' " 
Margot called promptly as a violent sneeze shook 
the gallery above. 

"Ah!" feeling instinctively for her snuffbox, 
" I am catching cold ! Well, good-night, Madame 

"Good-night, Madame Renaudiere. No chance 
of getting in without your knowing it; vas !" she 
grumbled as she passed on in the direction of 
her gallery. She stopped at the door to return 
to Madame Carlin the bonnet and shawl bor- 
rowed for the occasion, and proceeded up-stairs 
to her room. 

Monsieur Wilhelm, busy even in waiting, fixed 
his eyes upon the obstinate glass doors and fell 
mechanically to repeating the different classifica- 
tions of English adverbs, marking them off on his 
fingers by an original system of mnemonics. The 


voices in the yard all died away, the different 
rooms one by one retired into darkness, nothing 
but the prowling cats disturbed the sleeping si- 
lence all around. His thoughts passed on to 
certain subtle deductions by which he hoped to 
classify lucidly obscure similarities between the 
German and English languages, looking to the 
ultimate establishment of some rule for the regu- 
lation of the pronunciation of the vowel sounds 
of both. But it all went abruptly out of his mind 
with the light behind the curtains, and he stared 
blankly at the place v/here she had shone in the 
room, as she shone in his heart. No mental exer- 
cises, knowledge, or experience, had ever prepared 
him for this event ! He almost forgot to breathe. 
" Thou forgetful ! Thou heartless one ! Thou 
..." He abandoned his conscientious efforts 
at English self-communication. " Thou unwom- 
anly one ! Knowing only too well who was wait- 
ing outside, thou couldst yet extinguish that light! 
Without pause, without hesitation, nay, without 
remorse !" There came over him the violent bit- 
terness of disappointment and the stinging hu- 
miliation of slight, insult, and a resentful reversal 
of all the flattering epithets which only a moment 
before had fitted his love so sweetly. " So ! it 
is Sedan still ! So ! it is Bismarck and Napoleon 
and Prussia and France ! So ! it is not two liv- 
ing and loving hearts, but two inimical nations in 
our bosoms !" 


He jumped from his seat and stamped his foot 
on the ground, this time driving the meddlesome 
tin against the house ; but the madame had long 
been lulled to sleep by the rival and perpetual 
serenades of the "Marseillaise" and "Wacht am 
Rhein " of recurring organ-grinders at the differ- 
ent street- corners within hearing. He strode 
across the yard, and, regardless of the treacher- 
ous pitfalls of the staircase, mounted boldly to the 
gallery, sought his room, and, with a reckless ex- 
travagance of matches, lighted his lamp. 

His blond hair glistened like a silver nimbus 
around his red face, his light eyes were frankly 
infuriated. He broke into a voluble, passionate 
soliloquy, getting farther and farther away from 
his trained pedagogical German as his indigna- 
tion increased, and lapsing deeper and deeper 
into the provincialisms and vulgarisms of expres- 
sion and pronunciation of his peasant home. 

" So ! That is it ! She will not open the door 
to me ! She will not come out to me ! She does 
not love me ! She wishes to rebuff me ! She hates 
me ! That is enough, she is French, I am Prus- 
sian — to put out the light in that heartless way. 
O thou ! So snail-slow to love, so lightning-quick 
to hate !" 

He looked around his diminutive chamber. It 
had been large enough to contain such a world 
of ideal happiness ; all in fragments and ruin now! 
" O thou female Samson !" On the table were 


piled the fool's - cap copy books for correction ; 
his nightly task, the flotsam and jetsam from the 
oceans of Greek and Latin ignorance in which 
God had willed he should travel through life. 
And there, ranged in file for use, were the red ink 
and the blue ink and the black ink with their 
symbolical values of meanings, and the smeared, 
rumpled copy-books of Rougette and Blanchette, 
the blotted currency with which he paid for his 

He would never have known he was a man if 
Anais had not grown into a woman ; grown right 
there before his eyes, nay, publicly, before the 
eyes of the whole world. So quietly and imper- 
ceptibly at first, as if to slip into it they 
knew it, but with an exotic rush at the last. Into 
a woman ! That little girl running around in 
short clothes when he first came to the house. 
In the dull, dingy, damp court-yard where plants 
were coaxed to grow and no flower cared to bloom, 
amid the clothes -washing, the shoemaking, the 
step-motherly assiduities, and paternal vexations, 
the great miracle had been accomplished. The 
transformation of her, and of him, too ! For 
through the Greek and Latin bricklaying of his 
monotonous life visions and dreams had come 
to beautify his future, and novel thoughts to be- 
set and tempt him, and in his breast a spring of 
poetry had been unlocked to gush and flow at 
the mere thought of her name. Napoleon III. 


could have conquered Prussia and passed it 
through a mill and not have eliminated Anais 
from his heart ! 

And she had turned the light from it all — de- 
liberately, determinedly. It was to be all dark- 
ness henceforth, and grovelling work. He was to 
come through the corridor evening after evening, 
tired, heart -hungry, and pass straight on. . . . 
Their eyes were no more to meet. ..." Nein, 
und wieder nein !" 

He closed his lips, dragged his trunk from un- 
der the bed, and with desperate energy began to 
throw into it all his possessions, everything, pell- 
mell : books, clothing, copy-books, jDens, pencils, 
shoes. He stayed his hand at the ink-bottle, 
which he carefully corked and put into his 
pocket, took his umbrella, turned out the lamp, 
and, as if he were starting out on his daily 
routine, shut and locked the door behind 

" Is anything the matter. Monsieur Villem ?" 

He had not noticed Madame Margot, standing 
in the far corner of the gallery. 

" No, nothing at all. I am going away." He 
passed on as resolutely as if she were Anais. 

"Going away? Mon Dieu !" 

He awed her with his far-away, determined 

" But stop a moment, Monsieur Villem ! Your 
coffee, your picayune, I shall return them." 


Unfortunately, she belonged to the sex of 
Anais ; his tone was brusque and ill-tempered, 

"What do you take me for? If you do not 
want them, throw them into the street. I shall 
not touch them !" 

She looked after him with her characteristic 
helpless docility, 

"Well, good-bye, Monsieur Villem," 

" Good-bye, Madame Margot," groping his way 
down the steps. 

" Monsieur Villem ! Monsieur Villem !" 

He was nearly to the landing. Looking up 
through the dark funnel above, he saw her bend- 
ing over the balusters peering after him, the moon- 
light falling through the archway behind her, all 
over her head and shoulders. Her whisper was 
sharp and distinct. 

" Remember, one teaspoonful of ' sirop de vio- 
lettes ' in a cup of ' tisane de bourrache ' boiling 

" Thou dear God !" Tears came into his eyes. 
The strong fragrance of the violets came over him, 
and the suave consciousness of maternal solici- 
tude, and the delicious sensation of awakening 
from pain and seeing Madame Margot with a 
steaming delft cup in her hand, standing at his 
bedside. Oh, those wintry nights of loneliness, 
homesickness, orphanage, and pneumonia ! 

"Thou dear God! It is the best Thou hast 
done, after all — the mothers ! Happily for us men 


Thou stationedst them all through life. Thine 
own hospitals ! heart sanctuaries !" He ran back 
to embrace his deputy mother, descending the 
steps again slowly. 

The moon had at last reached the yard, and 
was poised full overhead, pouring down generous 
largesse of splendor on the humble scene below ; 
transfiguring the most sordid detail with heaven- 
ly light and loveliness. Tire leaf plants in the 
little gallery gardens glistened and shimmered in 
the heavy September dew, pranked with a thou- 
sand diamonds, in default of the inert blossoms 
that could not be caressed out of their stems. 
From the great, rounded-top central window of 
the main building, old Grouille's vine fell in long, 
uneven fringes over the defaced stucco. A pang, 
which in its acuteness might have come from his 
delicate chest, shot across Wilhelm's anger at the 
thought of leaving the old caravansary that had 
housed him so long; that had lent to the lodging 
contract the kindly grace of hospitality, and so 
well concealed the pecuniary nature of their rela- 
tionship. How bravely and pathetically the build- 
ing rose in the moonlight, with its rooms full of 
tired, sleeping, homeless lodgers ! Itself an aris- 
tocratic outcast, exiled in poverty, trading its shab- 
by beauties, its comforts, the shelter of its roof, 
for a mere pittance. The skeletons of for- 
mer romances, and the ghosts of former sen- 
timent, seemed yet to flit across the galleries, 


look from the windows, and lurk in the dark 

The cathedral clock preluded midnight ; was 
every one asleep .'* Asleep and unconscious of 
the sound of the hour and the sight of his going ? 
Every one ? No, there was old Grouille, his heavy 
foot descending step after step, from the third- 
story gallery, his candle flaring up to his night- 
capped head, coming down, as usual, to close and 
bolt the heavy porte cochere. Wilhelm hastened 
through, just in time to escape unperceived. 

Madame Margot, still on the gallery, crossed 
herself as if midnight were the angelus, and lis- 
tened until the last musical stroke died away in 
the cool, damp air. She took out a book from 
under her sacque and held it closer and closer to 
her eyes. The mottled paper cover, the red mo- 
rocco back, and the lurid gilt title stood out clear- 
ly enough, but the words that filled the inside 
pages were all uniformly unintelligible. Just as 
she was on the point of making one out, they all 
seemed to sink back into the white paper pur- 
posely to evade her. How was she ever to read 
it ? She turned the soft, flimsy pages over, one 
after the other, carefully with her rough fingers, 
so many of them ! and all filled with words ! She 
screwed her eyes almost close ; but they were 
still too blunt to see through the fine, thin moon- 
light medium. 

She was determined to read the book, to read 


it for herself. That was the result of all her win- 
ter's interviews with Madame St. Georges, of the 

Convent, that and the little colored picture 

of St. Roch in her room, and the candles to burn 
before the altar. She stood and thought, hold- 
ing the book. She could not get out of the 
circle of what she had told Madame St. Georges 
and what Madame St. Georges had told her. 
More particularly what she had told Madame St. 
Georges, for that had excited her most. It was 
strange the way she talked then, she who never 
could talk. The words came all of themselves. 
Even now, at the remembrance of an expression 
or a tone of the reverend Mother's, the same 
words rushed again to her lips, her heart getting 
warm, and her eyes moist, just as they did then. 
It was Madame Carlin who had done it all. It 
would never have come into Margot's head to 
think of such a thing, and she would never have 
done it for herself, only for Monsieur Villeminot. 
Madame Carlin was a notorious gossip. She had 
talked to Madame St. Georges about Monsieur 
Villeminot, she had induced Margot to go to the 
convent after Monsieur Villeminot was asleep 
evenings, and she had persuaded Margot to take 
surreptitiously all the volumes from the mantel- 
piece, one after the other, to show to the rev- 
erend Mother ; volumes written long, long before 
she and Monsieur Villeminot had come together 
in the sacrament of marriage. And it was Ma- 


dame Carlin who had suggested that Monsieur 
Villeminot was bhnd, and would not miss them. 
Madame St. Georges was the Superior of the con- 
vent, wliere for the last five years a succession of 
Carlin girls had been making their first commun- 
ion. It was well that ]\Ionsieur Carlin had not 
lived any longer, if a widow was the only support 
he intended leaving his children, and girls the 
only estate provided for his widow. 

FIcurs Erotiqiies, Les Tropiqites de Pamour, Vies 
Poetiques, Statistiqucs du Cceur, Romances Faii- 
tastiqucs. Proud and confident Margot had car- 
ried them all across the consecrated portals ; a 
deception 'tis true towards her "patron," but then 
. . . the admiration, the appreciation of the rev- 
erend Mother, the homage when she had read — 
and who knows what ensuing services and world- 
ly comforts ? And in New Orleans, her New Or- 
leans, who had more power, wealth, and influence 
than the Sisters ? Oh, they could do anything ! 

" My good woman," said Madame St. Georges 
at the end of it all that very evening, " have you 
ever read any of these books ?" 

Read ! Read Monsieur Villeminot's books ! 
The idea ! She had hardly dared handle them 
to fetch them to the convent ! The very Sacred 
Host of literature to be enshrined on a mantel ! 
and worshipped with vmexamining faith and rev- 

"Oh no, reverend Mother ! Not one of them-'"' 


" It is well. They are of the evil one ! Pollu- 
tion ! Corruption ! Infectious with vice and 
crime ! Destructive of soul and body. Moral 
and physical poison. Burn them, burn them ; 
destroy them ! Remove the taint from the world ! 
Remove, if possible, by prayer and sacrifice, the 
taint from the soul of the author ! It is such 
books that make a hell of earth !" 

" Grand Dieu, Seigneur !" Margot turned from 
her pious attitude of admiration before the case 
of scapularies and religious embroideries, and 
looked at the metamorphosed, pale, calm Sister in 
supreme amazement. 

" Sin, vice ! Evil one ! Burn them. Monsieur 
Villeminot's books ! Save his soul, Monsieur Ville- 
minot's soul ! The reverend Mother herself must 
be possessed." 

" My poor woman, how came you to marry such 
a man ?" 

" I marry him, madame ? I ! I ! I have that 
presumption ? No, thank God ! He married me. 
Ah, no, madame, you do not know him. My 
'patron' is a gentleman, an aristocrat, a 'man of 
letters !' " 

She drew herself up in rehearsal of the scene 
just as she had done then, only now she was bare- 
footed and without the Widow Carlin's bonnet 
and shawl. 

"What does the reverend Mother take me for?" 
she had pursued, reproachfully. " His wife should 


have come from the ladies up there ; way up there. 
' Bien en haut !' " Not meaning the pictured 
canonized ladies on the walls at which she was 
looking, but those who had the earthly prece- 
dence of dressing in silks and satins and riding 
in carriages to the opera. " It is only misfortune 
that drove him to me, poor man!" 

An inspiration came to her to exonerate Mon- 
sieur Villeminot, and in a humble way to palli- 
ate her own conduct. 

" There was a poor old gentleman sick in the 
little corner room on the gallery where I lived. 
Ma foi ! they called him old ten years ago ! He 
was poor, because it was the smallest and cheap- 
est room in the whole house. No one knew him ; 
you see he was above every one else in the yard, 
a gentleman in fact; an aristocrat, an 'homme de 
lettres.' " How she loved to pronounce the three 
words ! " They only know he was sick because 
he ceased going out to work. He worked in a 
printing-office. As for me, I never had seen him 
in my life. I sewed by the day for Piton, at the 
' Bon Marche ;' made blouses by the dozen. But 
I am that way, madame," explanatorily. "When 
I hear of sickness, I cannot keep away, I sup- 
pose the good God gave me the vocation to be a 
sick-nurse ; I do not know. One day I was just 
passing the door with my bundle of work, and the 
impulse came to go in and see how the poor old 
gentleman was, and I stayed ; in fact, I never left 


him day nor night. It was a long time — weeks ; 
he suffered enough ! Naturally he could not pay 
his rent ; how could he, madame ? Fever, rheu- 
matism, and God knows what all ! Old Grouille 
was for putting him in the street ; sick ! a gentle- 
man, an aristocrat, a man of letters ! Ah, that 
was too much ! Well, the old miser ! One room 
was enough for both, thank God ! One day he 
thought he was getting well, and the idea took 
him ; he sent for a priest and married me — Mon 
Dieu ! there has been misery enough in this world 
for him 1" 

She had forgotten the book, and was looking 
straight before her with a smile on her lips, fill- 
ing out from memory the precis of what she had 
given the Sister, rounding, amplifying, beautifying, 
and sublimating the prosaic facts as women will 
do about their marriage ; counting over her own 
secret little hoardings of looks, caresses, thrills, 
and tremors — the precious private coin of love. 

The time passed. How suddenly it had grown 
dark ! She looked up in astonishment for the 
moon. No cloud hid it ; it was only slipping 
away along the smooth heavens, drawing stealth- 
ily its silver light and loveliness away from the 
sleeping world as gently and easily as a mother 
withdraws the covering from a sleeping child. 
The tall chimney of the next house cut a great 
notch in the full round globe. 

She was in despair. How could she manage it 


now? In the daytime she had her task of sew- 
ing. If the moon had but stayed longer she might 
yet have sharpened her eyes sufficiently. The 
blind need no light or she might have had one in 
her room ; although there was one there, in the 
farthest corner behind the bed, standing on a 
backless chair. It was neither hers nor Monsieur 
Villeminot's ; it was St. Roch's — Madame St. 
George's donation ; a spiritual disinfectant in be- 
half of the old author against his own works ; ded- 
icated to consume its substance away in acts of 
grace before the picture of the saint. Could she, 
dare she read by it ? 

The moon disappeared entirely behind the 
chimney. St. Roch's candle or not? She took 
her slippers in her hand, passed into the room, 
and stood before the improvised altar cogitating. 
Who would ever know of it but the saint and 
herself ? 

" St. Roch, priez pour moi ! 

" St. Roch, ayez pitie de moi ! 

" St. Roch, daignez me secourir ! 

" Enfin, he is a man, he will understand !" 

There was not the same difference between 
him and other men as between the Sisters and 
herself. The transparent, waxen Sisters, they 
embarrassed her with their pure eyes and lips, 
their unsoilable hands, their immaculate bodies. 
Spouses of the Holy Ghost, any one could see 
that ! not of craving, ailing humanity. 


She knelt at the chair and repeated her prayers 
interrogatively, looking timidly to the armed 
knight for some sign or token of disapproval. 
Then, an apprehensive glance for other lurking 
presences all around the chamber, then — a pause 
to listen to the sleeping respiration of her hus- 
band, then — slowly and stealthily she put her 
hand behind her, drew a book from the floor, 
and opened the pages of Les filles de Lucifer. 

The wick neither flickered nor winced, but 
shared its rays fairly and indiscriminately be- 
tween the gaudy beatitudes of the saint and the 
chastely printed type of Monsieur Villeminot's 
luxurious imaginings. 

" Les filles de Lucifer ! But who are the daugh- 
ters of Lucifer ?" She tried to remember if her 
knowledge of womankind had ever contained 
them. Alas ! her schooling had been of the 
shortest, surrounding only the year of her first 
communion, distant now and dim. 

"Lucifer? his daughters? Mon Dieu ! I did 
not even know he had any.'' 

It was hard to read words she was unfamiliar 
with ; still harder to recognize her own every-day 
intimate expressions in such service as was need- 
ed to portray the charms and characteristics of 
the ladies in question. Whole pages vanished 
before her into the unintelligible, descriptions re- 
mained sealed to her limited understanding. The 
open spaces and short sentences of dialogue, how- 


ever, were loop-holes into the fiction which, in her 
simplicity, she mistook for reality, and at last she 

" Mon Dieu ! mon Dieu !" she murmured, from 
time to time, under her breath. She bent her 
perplexed brows nearer to the book, as if her 
heavy eyes were attempting to deceive her. At 
intervals she raised her head, clasped her hands, 
and looked in dispassionate appeal to the minia- 
ture saint. Once a blush mounted under her 
thick, sallow skin, and her heavy fist fell on the 
passage, burying it from his sight and from hers. 

"And you," apostrophizing St. Roch, "you all 
up there, you know all this, you see all this, and 
do nothing ! great God !" 

The cocks in the neighboring bird-store began 
to make stifled guesses at dawn from their im- 
prisoned cages, the candle was nearing the sock- 
et, when the last pages were reached and the 
book fell to the floor. She stood up and held 
her forehead tightly. Her plain, work-a-day eyes 
burned from the pandemonium of light dancing 
before them. Perfumes and flowers, music and 
wine, and the intoxicating glamour of idealized 
passion confused and staggered her. She groped 
her way to the bed, ' les fiUes de Lucifer,' houris, 
sultanas, sirens, joyous nights, nocturnal days, or- 
gies, fetes, nudities, rhapsodies — the whole satur- 
nalia of life, with grotesque lasciviousness pass- 
ing and repassing in her brain. 


As she Stood grasping the post the blackness 
faded into gray, the gray Hfted like a mist, and 
the bed slowly emerged from obscurity — the 
tossed-up draperies, the indented pillow bearing 
the white-haired head, with the long beard hid- 
ing the sunken cavity of the toothless mouth, the 
thin hands, and the body. The body that had 
disported youthful passions and graces for the 
daughters of Lucifer — what had become of it un- 
der the sheets ? A bare outline ! 

He lay, the unconscious author, in the heavy 
torpid sleep of the aged, moving his hands un- 
easily, as daylight approached, muttering, mut- 
tering incessantly in his own private, aristocratic 
language : 

" A gentleman, an aristocrat, and an ' homme 
de lettres !' the biographer and companion of ' les 
filles de Lucifer !' If it were not so, why should 
he write it ? — why write such lies ? If it were so, 
God and St. Roch help him !" The past of St. 
Roch himself had not been more above suspicion. 

She bent over him as she had bent over his 
book — doubting, questioning, confused. Only her 
same old Monsieur Villeminot — her same old, 
blind patron. Not an infirmity, not a distortion, 
not a wrinkle missing, thank God ! 

" Madame, never a cross word, never an un- 
gentle tone, never a complaint." 

Her own words recurred again, enveloped in 
the same mist of tears that had blurred the 


Mother Superior from her eyes. "And blind, 
hopelessly blind." How clear and well scrubbed 
her own humble, uneducated past had been ! 

" O God ! why didst Thou make men so ? or 
why didst Thou not protect Monsieur Villeminot ?" 

And again the unforgetable in her life came to 
her and held her, while the gray light of dawn 
broadened its streaks in the crack of the door 
and crept down the window, shutter by shutter. 

"Enfin, God knows best. She is the Mother 
Superior of the convent, I only Margot ! Hus- 
band for husband. He has given her the Church ; 
but to me He has given Monsieur Villeminot." . . . 

Absent-mindedly, she made and carried the 
habitual cup of morning coffee to Monsieur Vil- 
lem's room. It was not until after repeated 
knocks on the door that she realized his de- 
parture of the night before. The little flower- 
maker was just going out to her work, " tiree 
a quatre epingles," as usual. A suspicious char- 
acter she was, in her tight-fitting, flounced dress- 
es, kid gloves, and diminutive capote, tied co- 
quettishly under her chin with bright ribbon. 

" Ha, the lazy one ! Still asleep !" 

" Mon Dieu !" answered Margot, with a sigh ; 
"he is not there at all." 

The flower -maker's malicious eyes tvt^inkled 
knowingly as she minced out : 

" Ah, le brigand ! but that is the way with 
young men !" 


" He has gone away, mademoiselle, forever." 

"Gone away forever! But where? but why?" 

Margot's shrug of the shoulder left the answer 
to the inventive powers of the other one. 

"Tant mieux !" shrugging her shoulders also; 
" one enemy less here ; one more to kill over 

There was a general excitement in the yard 
among the lodgers over the news ; and the sat- 
isfactory feeling of elation that France had been 
so promptly vindicated by them continued until 
old Grouille made his appearance with his greasy 
bunch of pass-keys, and marched lugubriously 
up-stairs, followed by a porter. 

" Now, if the steps would crack under him — 
hein !" the women whispered ; " that would be 
a judgment !" 

Prussia and the little black trunk were incon- 
tinently carried ignominiously out of the corri- 
dor, pursued by witticisms and patriotic jests, 
which culminated in boisterous hilarity as the ban- 
dy-legged, staggering porter finally disappeared, 
Anais, returning from early mass, knocked against 
him as he stepped onto the banquette. It was 
only Wilhelm Mtiller, painted in white letters on 
the trunk, that she saw, not Prussia ; and the 
tender sentiments of repentance which were now 
making her heart eloquent with contrition took 
one bound into remorse — dumb, agonized re- 
morse. Margot waylaid the man at the corner, 


and detained him until a message translated into 
his native Creole had been reiterated into intelli- 
gible conveyance on his part. 

The war travelled all the way down the street 
from Canal to Esplanade ; zigzagging like a 
streak of lightning from banquette to banquette, 
to separate friends from foes in all the little 
shops and industries, neighbors for decades ; 
playing havoc with trade, blockading sociability, 
and laying waste whole quarters of human affecT 
tions. From every German signboard victorious 
Prussian armies seemed contemptuously to issue 
with cannon, flags, sabres, and insults, to besiege 
an opposite or proximate French heart, which 
was daily fighting, starving, freezing, despair- 
ing, mutinying, with Paris enshrined in its very 

In " La Rose de France " misfits accumulated 
beyond the capacity of the show-window ; orders 
diminished below comparison with any previous 
era, and Anais, to her stepmother's vituperative 
indignation, was discovering a vocation for the 
cloister. The world had become manless for 
her ; all her growing and blooming, dressing and 
coquetting useless and distasteful; her dreams, 
plans, and musings out of place and inappropri- 
ate. She had to learn a different language from 
the Uioonbeams and flowers. Her ears misinter- 
preted the strains of music. Her heart bounded 
and started on false rcents and trails. Her lamp 


burned long and bright behind the curtains. How 
often the doors opened to illusory taps ! 

The news from France ? What were battles 
and invasions ? She, she alone, could tell what 
real misfortune, real pain, were. The phenom- 
enon was that life could continue at all under 
the circumstances ; that the sun could shine, and 
the people pass in front of the shop day after day, 
just the same. Yes, it was evidently God's will 
to make a nun of her. . . . Was there, could there 
be, a greater tragedy than hers in His world, 
among His people .' 

Either France or the shoe business had to suf- 
fer, and Monsieur Renaudiere was too good a 
patriot to hesitate in such an emergency between 
his workroom and Jacquet's " Quincaillerie," 
where the war was being diligently supervised 
and the Government vigorously reconstructed in 
nightly seances of midnight duration. 

As Napoleon waned, Jacquet waxed, and his 
cottage rose in direct importance with the ad- 
versities of France. Trade was never brisker. 
The high-pointed tile roof over his shop seemed 
hardly able to hold down the plethora of wares 
underneath. The front room was in a constant 
state of overflow into the back room, which in 
turn disburdened itself onto the unpaved yard 
in the rear, where were huddled together old cart- 
wheels, pi-imitive sugar boilers, millstones, yellow 
water jars (retired into desuetude by increasing 


use of cisterns), chains, cannon-balls, and rusty 
heaps of mingled odds and ends, leaving barely 
space enough in the centre for a half-dozen 
chairs to mortise themselves comfortably in the 
soft earth, under the reverberative periods of 
Jacquet's hyperbolical eloquence. Here, evening 
after evening, under sunsets, twilights, moons and 
star risings, royalty had been guillotined, relig- 
ion suppressed, priests extirpated, palaces and 
churches fired, dejected imperialists coerced into 
red-republican acquiescence by the fiery iron-mon- 
ger, and "la patrie Madonne," coifed and cos- 
tumed for the third representation of that drama, 
whose fifth act this time, according to the author, 
was to be a permanent denouement of victory 
and peace. But constant defeat and the pro- 
tracted siege had driven the little coterie into de- 
spair and into the house, as winter succeeded to 
autumn, and it was finally in the dimly-lighted 
back room, surrounded by the shadowy forms of 
Jacquet's favorite metal, a prey to sinister noises 
and fancies, listeners to the stolid rejoicings of 
foes outside and the indifferent gayety of neutrals, 
that the compatriots suffered the full bitterness 
of their expatriation and humiliation. At the end 
of hope and patience, on the point of reacting 
vindictively into royalism, they sat one night, 
alas ! and waited for the last news from Paris 
the terms of surrender. 

" It is with a sword in the hand of a republic." 


The word was, as usual with Jacquet, misfortune ; 
instead of silencing his tongue, appearing to li- 
cense it. 

" Boutique !" (Shop !) 

An old carafe to be sold, or a broken cup to be 
matched, or five cents of nails to be bought on time, 
or the shiftless Carlins redeeming or pawning nec- 
essary or useless flat-irons ; and the Government 
had to be suspended, and the priests allowed a 
breathing-spell until, not satisfaction (for that, even 
in a second-hand condition, was not to be found 
in Jacquet's shop), but agreement was arrived at. 

" It is iron, * le fer, le fer, le fer,' " beating down 
as he spoke on a newly-polished stove. 

" Shop !" 

" Au diable la pratique !" 

And they all listened listlessly to a tedious rig- 
marole of chaffering over a coffee-pot. 

" And that is the last price. Monsieur Jacquet ?" 

"All that can be called 'last price.' " 

" Mon Dieu ! how dear these things are !" 

" Cro nom ! if I gave it to you for nothing you 
would still call it dear, you women !" and he com- 
menced closing and bolting his shutters, for it 
was ringing nine o'clock. 

" It is not that it is dear, Monsieur Jacquet, 
but money is so scarce." The voice sounded of 
an empty purse. 

" There is no law to compel you to buy a cof- 
fee-pot, saperlotte !" 


" And times are hard, mon Dieu, harder than 
in our war !" 

" Si ! the times are hard, but no harder for you 
than for me, par example !" 

"Well, it's no use; I had better have the old 
one mended. Good-night, Monsieur Jacquet." 

" Good-night, Madame Margot," 

His voice was acrimonious and disgusted 
enough ; he bolted the door noisily against the 
intrusion of any more customers. 

" Va-t-en, imbecile ! idiote de femme ! dear, 
dear, dear !" whining in imitation of her tones. 
" She could not tell the truth and say she had 
no money ; the truth from women ; ha, bonjour ! 
I guarantee she had not a picayune in her pock- 
et. Ah, good God ! what fools women are ! He 
knew what He was about when He made them 
so. But it is not the men Vv'ho should complain 
of it, nor her old patron — Hein, Madame Mar- 
got ! Madame Margot!" 

She was nearly through the corridor, but his 
voice arrested her in time and brought her back. 

" But come in. Don't be a fool. What are 
you afraid of ? Here, for God's sake, take it for 
a picayune, on time, anything, only don't talk any 
more about it. Here, go make the ' patron ' his 
coffee ; bon soir ! En — fin," as he sharply shut 
the door behind her. " 1-oor wretch, if he has the 
coffee to make. He is a Frenchman also, her 
'patron.' He will not want for misery and dis- 


grace to-morrow morning ! Blind and infirm — it 
is very little, after all, a coffee-pot ! A gentleman, 
an aristocrat, and a man of letters, too, according 
to that great cow of a Widow Carlin and her two 
heifer daughters. Pests of the earth, with their 
flat-irons! Oui, messieurs," returning to the 
back door, "it will come hard upon him; he 
dates from the time of the great Napoleon when 
there was a Franca to gurround (g-r-r-r-ound) 
the Prussians under her heel. Ha ! The time 
will come again ! We must begin again as they 
did. ... As I was saying, the republic. . . . But 
what is the matter ? You are all going ?" 

He had been too busy with his own soliloquy 
to hear the conference of the others. Old Frejus 
had been, the orator this time; he who had sat 
obstinately silent during the autumn and winter 
debates of his compatriots, from whom neither 
guillotines nor petroleum could evoke more than 
increasingly melancholy shakes of the head and 
increasingly dejected arrangements of feature, 
whose tongue had refused to participate even in 
the allowably desperate prophecies and surmises 
of the hour; he had found a text in the dialogue 
between Margot and Jacquet for a sermon, and 
the language — poor old silent Frejus ! — of a Do- 
minican in Passion Week to deliver it in. Not 
that his friends, being Frenchmen, needed more 
than a suggestion to kindle their hearts into gen- 
erosity and sympathy. He buttoned up his over- 


coat and tied a bandanna over his head, still talk- 
ing along in his tearful, complaining tone, as if 
his tongue could not cease all at once the unac- 
customed impetus and motion ; his words falling 
through the red and yellow folds, being twisted 
around mouth and neck. 

" Humanity ! Christianity ! A good, pious 
woman ! In poverty ! No friends ! Compan- 
ions ! All Frenchmen alike ! Conquered by 
Prussians ! Blind ; alone ; infirm ! \\^eather so 
cold ! A gentleman ; an aristocrat ; a man of let- 
ters ! Poor woman, no money, no coffee ! And we 
sitting here spouting ! spouting ! spouting ! with 
— he, my Saviour ! — full stomachs and warm bod- 
ies — we let Frenchmen die of hunger and want ! 
The Prussians kill them. We are more brutal 
than Prussians." 

It was a short speech, but the longest he had 
ever made in his life ; and it was more effective 
than any of Jacquet's or Renaudiere's, for it left 
no minority. " En avant, mes amis !" command- 
ed Jacquet. All the overcoats were buttoned up, 
all the handkerchiefs knotted, and all stood out- 
side the door and shivered unanimously, while 
Jacquet hunted for the key-hole with his pass- 
key in a darkness that seemed assembled C7i 
masse to quell forever the impertinent efforts of 
gas. They crossed the street, slipped against 
and stumbled over each other in the corridor, 
traversed the yard, and directed their steps to the 


stair-way, each one silently conning some Gal- 
licism of respectful homage and love. Renau- 
diere held back. Frejus absent-mindedly or un- 
selfishly mounted the rotten stairs first, and was 
miraculously followed in safety by all the rest. 

The aroused Carlins peeped through their door 
at the astounding deputation filing past, and all, 
old and young, followed on tiptoe after ; but they 
were not half-way up the stairs and darkness be- 
fore they were overtaken and startled into sup- 
pressed screams and ejaculations by the light- 
shod Anais, who, also peeping, was also driven by 
curiosity into following the procession. 

Fre'jus discreetly tapped, then waited a while, 
then softly opened the battened doors, and all the 
heads came together to look through the glass 
casement inside. Oh, the battle of Sedan had 
been followed by defeat, bloodshed, and humilia- 
tion enough to have cracked the panes as the 
concentrated hatred of their gaze fell on what 
they had accustomed themselves to regard as 
the physiognomical expression of Prussian ava- 
rice, cruelty, and oppression — the mild face of 
INIonsieur Wilhelm Miiller. Rage at the sight of 
him swept like a blast all the soft impulses away 
from their hearts and the pretty speeches a-mak- 
ing in their brain. 

" He had not gone away, then, the liar ! He was 
not fighting with his countrymen, the coward ! 
He had remained rather, vilely to creep and spy 


among the unfortunate French under the cover 
of darkness ! Bribing and corrupting poverty- 
pinched French patriots into disgraceful social 
intercourse ! That was like a Prussian. Sitting, 
laughing in his sleeve at them ! After they had 
put him out ; cast him and his trunk into the 
street, he was mocking them ! Despising them ! 
Ah, they would show him ! They might be beat- 
en in France ; but here in America, in New Or- 
leans, there was still something to be said, to be 
done. Did he take them for children ? For ba- 
bies ?" 

Serenely unaware of the muffled heads, red 
noses, and vindictive whispers of his mortal en- 
emies outside, the young German seemed in the 
dim room to be pursuing an amusing, if hesitat- 
ing, narrative ; reading from time to time from 
the telegraphic columns of a newspaper he held 
in his hand. Renaudiere alone could catch the 
drift of it, for he, sacrificing vision to hearing, was 
bent over, holding an uncovered ear against the 

" But what is it ? What is it .'"' demanded Jac- 
quet. " What lies ? What infamies ?" 

" Sacre !" A laugh, actually a laugh through 
the orifice, to be reported by Renaudiere. A 
pleased, easy, complacent laugh by the old man 
in the chair to stick and quiver in their hearts. 
A laugh by a Frenchman, at this fatal hour, and 
before a Prussian ! 


" He reads telegrams," continued Renaudiere, 
and then opened his lips for no more items ; for, 
though he glued his ear to the key-hole, he knew 
that the words which he heard could only have 
emanated from his own diseased brain. " French 
triumphs — Prussian defeats — despair of besiegers 
— courage and fortitude of besieged. In all prob- 
ability peace with glory and success to France ! 
Paris . . ." 

Was he (Renaudiere) crazy, or they ? 

" Ha, ha, ha, Prussians repulsed again ! Still 
holding their own ? Ah, my brave Frenchmen, 
my brave Parisians. My polished lions ! Star- 
vation, shells, snow, prrut !" A cracked sound of 
his youthful expression of contempt. " They are 
fighting now for Paris, men ami, for no govern- 
ment, no man, but for Paris ! Ah, you don't 
know v*hat that means! I do, I do ! it will make 
them indestructible. Paris surrender?" He strove, 
but could not hide the tremulous vacillation from 
confidence to appi^ehension. The others merely 
stared from the outside, waiting for some event 
to enlighten them or prompt future action. 

Margot, alas, for the easy descent of it! was 
kneeling on the floor before the picture of St. Roch, 
but only to hold the new coffee-pot over the flame 
of the votive candle. Her face v/as turned away 
from her task towards Monsieur Wilhelm, whom 
she was prompting by nods and signs and smiles 
of encouragement. The flames played over the 


sides of the unsteady tin, blackening and smoking 
it, and sending little waves of shadow over the 
whitewashed walls. The men outside nudged 
each other as the red and gilt backs of the books 
lightened and darkened on the mantel, 

" Look ! his books ! it's true, a famous author ; 
a man of letters." 

" Paris surrender ! Paris surrender !" Tlie 
shrill voice came through the key-hole to Re- 
naudiere. " Never ! Why, her paving-stones are 
the very bone, her sewers the veins, of the French 
people. Surrender to Prussians ! Before the last 
soldier, the last man, the last woman, the last 
gamins from the streets had perished in her de- 
fence ? Before the generale had been beaten 
throughout the whole world and the last French 
heart securely sleeping under foreign flags roused.-' 
Never ! never ! To arms ! To arms ! Her cry 
would go from city to hamlet, from hamlet to 
family, from the family to the distant wandering 
sons in mountains, swamps, and prairies. Country 
in danger, my children ! To arms ! To arms ! 
Who — who of us would hold back ? On ! On !" 

He was hidden by the cushions. They on the 
outside could hear nothing, but they could see 
his fingers creep along his chair. His white 
head came into view bent forward in blind in- 
tensity of expression, his thin, long beard agitated 
by the excited utterances. 

" Paris in danger ! To the rescue ! All ! all ! — 


Ranks, Politics, Religions, Oriflammcs, Fleurs- 
de-lis, Tricolor ! My country ! We come ! We 
come !'' 

The gaunt form sprang electrified from the 
chair, and made a step forward, an extended 
hand grasping an imaginary banner, the faded 
dressing-gown falling (as if to free him of in- 
firmity and disease) from the bent shoulders. 

" We come ! Yes ! All ! all !" 

He swayed, tottered, and fell like a clod back 
into his cushions. 

They threw open the doors and rushed in, 
trampling over the prostrate form of Renaudiere. 
The coffee-pot fell from Margot's hands, upset- 
ting the candle and splashing the coffee over the 
floor, Margot, INIonsieur Wilhelm, but, most vo- 
ciferously, Renaudiere, interposed, and before a 
word could be uttered by the uninitiated, excited 
ones, they all stood committed to the suppositi- 
tious triumphs of France, the supposititious suc- 
cessful defence of Paris, and were made by signs 
the confidants of Monsieur Wilhelm's nightly 
stolen visits, his generosity, his " bonte divine," 
his un-Prussian good-will. Jacquet lighted the 
candle and placed it with a bow of national po- 
liteness under the saint again, and then Margot 
shoved them all out into the darkness and cold 
of the gallery, entangled with Carlins, incoherent 
of speech, and distorted from prolonged shrugs of 
the shoulder. 


" Mais, que diable ! that woman, eh, she is 
never going to allow Paris to be taken," grum- 
bled Jacquet. 

Renaudiere, after several mistakes in the ob- 
scurity, finally seized the right man, Monsieur 
Wilhelm, by both hands. 

" Mon ami, you are great, you are noble ; don't 
say a word, I understand, I appreciate. As a 
Frenchman, you see, I must detest you ; as a 
man," suiting the action to the word, " I embrace 

Old Fre'jus had not been missed until he re- 
appeared with arms filled : crucifixes, beads, pict- 
ures, and candles, a complete installation from 
his show-case for the proper, fitting service of the 
knightly, handsome St. Roch. 

And she, who waiting in despair for one more 
chance, one more tap on her window, thought 
herself drifting towards the convent ? There 
was no m.oon to gild the heavens above her, and 
the water dripped into icicles from the cistern be- 
hind her, but her vigil was neither long nor cold, 
although the cathedral clock was striking mid- 
night before she caught him slipping past into 
the corridor — his nightly martyrdom, slipping 
past love and happiness, into a cold, deserted, 
denuded world. 

She caught and held him — " Wilhelm !" And 
it was as if there had never been war or discord 
in the world ; as if, indeed, there had never been 


a world but for them, for that moment. Only a 
moment, but it was sufficient — only a moment, 
because old Grouille was promptitude itself in 
bolting and barring the gate of the lodging-house 
at midnight. 



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Ornamental, $1 00. 

Tlie picture of the life and manners of that far-away period 
is carefully and artistically drawn, the plot is full of interest, 
and the whole treatment of the subject is strikingly original, 
and there is a dramatic intensity in the story which will at once 
remind the reader of " Ben-Hur." — Boston Traveller. 

It is altogether a fresh and enjoyable tale, strong in its sit- 
uations and stirring in its actions. — Cincinnati Commercial- 

Another distinct success in the field of historical fiction. . . . 
Must be unhesitatingly set down as a highly satisfactory per- 
formance. — Boston Beacon. 

In "A King of Tyre " we live and move amid old ideas, old 
superstitions, and an extinct civilization. But this vanished order 
of things the author has pierced to the core, and laid bare the 
human heart tiiat animates it all. When we say that his tale 
is interesting, that it is satisfying, that it is dramatically con- 
clusive, we give it high praise, yet we give it deliberately, and 
are convinced that the opinion of all intelligent readers will 
confirm the verdict. — Churchman, N. Y. 

Vivid with the richness of Oriental habits and customs, and 
the weird accompaniments of pagan worship, this tale of the 
times after the return of the Ilebrews to their own land, will 
hold the attention of the reader with unflagging interest. Its 
development shows marked ability and skill. There is an his- 
torical basis to the story which gives it additional attraction. — 
Living Church, Chicago. 

Will enhance the reputation of the author, and can be wel- 
comed as not only a novel of absoi-bing interest, but a faithful 
study ami portraiture of an eventful historical period. — Chris- 
tian Litelliijcnccr, N. Y. 

Published by HARPER Sc BROTHERS, New York. 

J6f5= Harper & Brothers toill send the above work hy mail, postage 
prepaid, to any part of the United States, Canada, or Mexico, on receipt 
o/ the price. 


A Tale of the Christ. Bj^ Lew. Wallace. 16mo, 
Cloth, $1 50 ; Half LeatLer, $2 00 ; Three-quarter Leath- 
er, $2 50 ; Half Calf, $3 00 ; Full Leather, $3 50 ; Three- 
quarter Crushed Levaut, $4 00. — Gari'Ield Edition. . 
2 volumes. Illustrated with tweuty full-page iihoto- 
gravures. Over 1,000 illustrations as luargiual draw- 
ings by William Martin Johnson. Crown 8vo, Silk 
and Gold, Uncut Edges and Gilt To^is, $7 00. (In a 
Gladdone hox.) 

Anything so startling, new, and distinctive as the leading feature of 
this romance does not often appear in works of fiction. . . . Some of 
Mr. Wallace's writing is remarkable for its pathetic eloquence. The 
scenes described in the New Testament are rewritten with the power 
and skill of an accomplished master of style. — iV". Y. Times. 

Its real basis is a description of the life of the Jews and Romans at 
the beginning of the Christian era, and this is both forcible and brill- 
iant. . . .We are carried through a surprising variety of scenes; we 
witness a sea-fight, a chariot-race, the internal economy of a Roman 
galley, domestic interiors at Antioch, at Jerusalem, and among the 
tribes of the desert; palaces, prisons, the haunts of dissipated Roman 
youth, the houses of pious families of Israel. There is plenty of ex- 
citing incident; everything is animated, vivid, and glowing. — N. Y. 

It is full of poetic beauty, as though born of an Eastern sage, and 
there is sufficient of Oriental customs, geography, nomenclature, etc., 
to greatly strengthen the semblance. — Boston Commomccallh. 

"Ben-IIur" is interesting, and its characterization is fine and strong. 
Meanwhile it evinces careful study of the period in which the scene is 
laid, and will help those who read it with reasonable attention to real- 
ize the nature and conditions of Hebrew life in Jerusalem and Ro- 
man life at Antioch at the time of our Saviour's advent — Examiner, 
N. Y. 

The book is one of unqnestionable power, and will be read with un- 
wonted interest by many readers wlio are weary of the conventional 
novel and romnnco.— Boston Journal. 

Published by HARPER «fc BROTHERS, New York. 

>K5= The above work sent hy mail, postage prepaid, to any part of the 
United States, Canada, or Mexico, on receipt of tlie price.